Blood pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. But if untreated, it increases your risk of developing serious health problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

High blood pressure is one of the most common conditions in this country - more than one in four adults in the UK have the condition.

How can I check my blood pressure?

Having a blood pressure check and ‘Knowing Your Numbers’ is incredibly important, as having high blood pressure that is left untreated, can cause further ill health. Knowing Your Numbers is really valuable, and we want to encourage more people across Lancashire & South Cumbria to know theirs. 

Home monitoring offers a way for YOU to take control of your health, feel confident, and take the pressure off the NHS at the same time. It gives you a practical, effective and inexpensive way to Know Your Numbers! without visiting your GP or pharmacist, and it really can save lives. You can find out more information and advice about home monitoring by visiting the Blood Pressure UK website.  If you already know you want to invest in a home Blood Pressure monitor, here is a list of validated blood pressure machines.

If you're aged 40-74 years old you may be eligible for a FREE NHS health check which includes a blood pressure check. Part of this check involves assessing your individual CVD risk and advising you how to reduce it. You should receive a letter from your GP surgery or local council inviting you for a free NHS health check every five years. You can also call your GP surgery to book a health check.

Most local Pharmacies can offer a range of health services too, including blood pressure testing, and often work with GP practices to offer BP monitoring. Ask your Pharmacist if they offer BP Checks. 

Why should I know my blood pressure?

If your blood pressure is too high, it can do massive damage. It narrows the blood vessels and can cause strokes and heart attacks, angina, heart failure, kidney failure and narrowed leg arteries.

Taking just five minutes to measure your blood pressure could save your life! Your practice nurse or pharmacist can measure your blood pressure, or you can take it yourself at home using a blood pressure monitor.

Click here for a short video by Blood Pressure UK (opens in new window) on why you should Know Your Numbers!

How do I know if my blood pressure is too high?

If your blood pressure readings from any setting are consistently above 140/90mmHg you may have high blood pressure. You should get a review at your GP surgery to check.

Sustained high blood pressure can damage the heart and increase the risk of stroke.

A few simple lifestyle changes can make all the difference...

  • eat more fruit and vegetables
  • eat less salt
  • only drink alcohol in moderation
  • lose weight if you need to
  • be active
  • stop smoking.

Frequently asked questions:

Here are some questions you may have about your blood pressure. Click on the questions to see our advice and guidance. 

As a guide, if your blood pressure is in the healthy range (129/84mmHg or less) it is recommend you get your blood pressure checked at least every 5 years.

If your blood pressure is on the higher side of normal (between 130/85mmHg and 139/89mmHg) it is recommended that you make lifestyle changes and recheck within a year.

If your blood pressure is high or very high you should follow clinical advice on how often to monitor your blood pressure.

We encourage people to check their blood pressure at home for a more accurate reading. It is often more reliable than getting it checked at a hospital clinic or at your GP practice, as people tend to be more relaxed in their own surroundings.

Buying a blood pressure monitor
To measure your blood pressure at home, you will need a home blood pressure monitor. You can buy a blood pressure monitor for as little as £10. If you are buying a blood pressure monitor, make sure it is approved for use in the UK.

To make sure your monitor is accurate, choose one that is accredited (usually stated on the BP machine box) or choose one that has been listed as validated for accuracy by the British Hypertension Society (opens in new window). This means that the digital monitor has gone through a series of tests to make sure it provides reliable results.

Make sure the cuff fits
Measure around your upper arm and choose a monitor that comes with the correct size cuff.

Be still
Don't smoke, drink caffeinated beverages or exercise 30 minutes before measuring your blood pressure.

Instructional imageSit correctly
Sit with your back straight and supported (eg: on a dining chair rather than a sofa). Your feet should be flat on the floor and legs uncrossed. Your arm should be supported on a flat surface (such as a table), with the upper arm at heart level. Make sure the middle of the cuff is placed directly above the eye of the elbow. Check your blood pressure machine`s instructions for an illustration.

Take multiple readings
Take two or three readings one minute apart and record all the results. Use the lowest reading.

Measure at the same time of day
It's important to take the readings at the same time each day (eg morning and evening), or as your healthcare professional recommends.

Accurately record all your results
Record all your readings, including the date and time taken. Remember to take your results with you if you are seeing your practice nurse or GP about your blood pressure. Some monitors have built-in memory to store your readings. If yours does, take it with you to your appointments.

Understand the readings
A healthy blood pressure is usually less than 140/90 mmHg. Find out more about what your blood pressure readings mean below.

High blood pressure

If you consistently have a reading of 140/90 or higher, you may have high blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure increases your risk of developing certain health conditions, including heart attacks and strokes.

Generally, the lower your blood pressure, the healthier you are. A healthy blood pressure is normally less than 140/90. If you have high blood pressure, you should be aiming for a reading less than 140/90. Your doctor or specialist may aim for a lower blood pressure if you have diabetes or kidney disease, but for people under the age of 80, 140/90 is a good target.

Low blood pressure

People with readings of around 100/60 or lower are generally considered to have low blood pressure.

Low blood pressure can sometimes cause dizziness. If you are on treatment to lower your blood pressure, have readings below 100/60 and feel dizzy, you should talk to your practice nurse or GP about reducing your medication.

It is also important to think about low blood pressure when you are feeling ill. If you are on treatment to lower your blood pressure and feeling ill, you can sometimes get dehydrated. Conditions like sickness and diarrhoea can cause dehydration. Dehydration can result in low blood pressure and dizziness, and it can affect your kidneys. It is worth speaking to your GP if this affects you as it might be sensible to reduce some of your blood pressure medicine until your blood pressure returns to normal and you are no longer dehydrated.

Hypertension: so you’ve been told your blood pressure is too high?

High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is one of the most common health problems in the UK, affecting over a quarter of people in England.

Estimates suggest that over 130,000 people across Lancashire and South Cumbria have undiagnosed high blood pressure.

High blood pressure doesn’t have any noticeable symptoms but, if left untreated, it can cause significant damage to arteries and organs. The narrowing of the arteries, for example, can cause strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, angina, kidney failure and narrowing of the leg arteries.

There isn’t always an explanation for the cause of high blood pressure, but these are factors:

  • being overweight or obese
  • regularly drinking too much alcohol
  • eating too much salt
  • not exercising regularly
  • a family history of high blood pressure
  • kidney disease.

First line management is simple lifestyle changes as outlined in the lifestyle section. If your blood pressure remains high you may be prescribed medicine to control it. This will reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Most people require two or three medicines to reduce their blood pressure to recommended levels. It is sometime more effective to use two or more drugs which work on different areas of the body to reduce blood pressure and minimise the risk of side effects.

Trying to be more active, losing weight if you are overweight, limiting salt and alcohol can all improve blood pressure – sometimes as much as taking one additional blood pressure medicine and with additional health benefits!

Read more about how to help prevent high blood pressure.

For many people, the usual target reading for blood pressure is below 140/90 mmHg.

However, your doctor may recommend a lower target if you have heart or circulatory disease, including coronary heart diseaseanginaheart attack or strokediabetes or kidney disease.

Every blood pressure reading consists of two numbers or measurements. They are shown as one number on top of the other and measured in mmHg, which means millimetres of mercury. 

If your reading is 120/80mmHg, for example, you might hear your doctor or nurse say your blood pressure is "120 over 80".

The first (or top) number represents the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart contracts and pumps blood through your arteries - your systolic blood pressure.

The second (or bottom) number represents the lowest level your blood pressure reaches as your heart relaxes between beats - your diastolic blood pressure.

A good way to monitor your blood pressure is by checking it at home. Blood pressure machines can be bought from most pharmacies and supermarkets. Upper arm blood pressure machines are recommended rather than wrist machines.

If you have an irregular heart beat (atrial fibrillation) some of the standard blood pressure monitors may not be accurate. Therefore, you need to check that any device used to check your blood pressure is appropriate.

Here is a list of blood pressure machines validated by the British and Irish Hypertension Society. You could also ask your local community pharmacy (chemist) to measure your blood pressure; while some GP surgeries have free-to-use self-service blood pressure monitors in waiting rooms.

Blood pressure monitoring at home

Watch this video about the benefits of blood pressure monitoring at home which is available in different languages here (opens in a new window).

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