In this Health Hub article, we explore the causes and management of hypertension.
What Is Hypertension?
Hypertension is the clinical term for high blood pressure.
The higher number is the systolic pressure and is a measure of the force at which your heart has to pump to get blood circulating around your body, while the lower number is the resistance to the blood flow in the vessels. Both are measured in mmHg.
Facts & Figures
Over half of all adults in Ireland over 45 years of age have high blood pressure. About 4 in every 5 men and 2 in every 3 women with high blood pressure are not being treated.
Signs & Symptoms
People with hypertension often have no signs or symptoms and is often referred to as being a ‘silent killer’. Oftentimes people don’t know they have high blood pressure until it is measured by their doctor or pharmacist.
Causes Of Hypertension
It’s not always clear what causes high blood pressure, but certain things can increase your risk.
You’re at an increased risk of high blood pressure if you:
- are over the age of 65
- are overweight or obese
- are of African or Caribbean descent
- have a relative with high blood pressure
- eat too much salt and don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables
- don’t do enough exercise
- drink too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
- don’t get much sleep or have disturbed sleep
Dangers Of Having High Blood Pressure
Your risk of having a stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure and poor circulation in your legs are increased when your blood pressure is high.
- High blood pressure (BP) is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher. You will be diagnosed with hypertension if your BP is constantly above this
- Ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
If you have diabetes your reading should be below 135/85mmHg
Management of Hypertension
A change of lifestyle can have an enormous impact on a patient’s blood pressure
- Increase exercise
- Reduce salt and processed food in the diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Drink less alcohol
- Quit smoking
However sometimes lifestyle changes alone are not enough to control blood pressure and medication will be introduced:
If you’re under 55, you’ll usually be prescribed either an ACE Inhibitor or an angiotensin-2 receptor blocker, while if you’re over 55 OR any age of african or caribbean origin you’ll be offered a calcium channel blocker (CCB)
Advice From The Pharmacist
- Go for annual blood pressure checks if you are over 30- more frequently if you have high blood pressure
- Incorporate a healthy diet and exercise into your lifestyle to help keep blood pressure within the normal range
- 24-hour blood pressure monitoring gives a better view of a patient’s blood pressure as the reading won’t be as affected by the anxiousness or stress of having your BP checked with the GP/ pharmacist
Supports In Ireland
Grace is a pharmacist at Healthwave and graduated from Sunderland University.