High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Blood pressure is the physical pressure of blood in the blood vessels. It is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) using an instrument called a “sphygmomanometer”.  

Normal blood pressure is generally considered to be less than 120/80 mmHg and high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is 140/90 mmHg or higher.

Your blood pressure changes with each heartbeat. The higher number (eg. 120) indicates the systolic pressure which is the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and pumps your blood to the rest of the body. The lower number (e.g. 80) indicates the diastolic pressure which is the pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxed between beats.

Causes of High Blood Pressure

There are no specific causes of high blood pressure however there are a number of contributing risk factors that have been identified and include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of physical activity
  • A diet high in salt and saturated fat
  • High alcohol consumption (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day)
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Adrenal and thyroid disorders
  • Certain medications such as anti-inflammatory pain killers or steroid medication*

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

Often, people with high blood pressure will not experience any symptoms and feel generally well.

In very few cases, some patients with very high blood pressure may experience symptoms such as headaches and vision problems.

As there are no specific warning signs and symptoms to watch out for with high blood pressure it is recommended that you check and monitor your blood pressure regularly. If your blood pressure remains high and untreated, it can lead to serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure or kidney disease.^.

Treatment of High Blood Pressure

The first and most important step in the treatment of high blood pressure would be to improve any areas in your lifestyle that could be considered a contributing risk factor. Aim to reduce your blood pressure readings to the normal range of less than 120/80 mmHg by achieving the following:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight with regular moderately intense physical activity
  • Eat a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables that is also low in salt and saturated fat
  • Limit alcohol consumption to no more than 1 to 2 standard drinks per day
  • Limit your intake of coffee and high caffeine containing drinks which can raise your blood pressure
  • Quit smoking
  • Identify and reduce stress factors

If these lifestyle changes alone are not enough to maintain a normal blood pressure and your regular blood pressure readings are still consistently elevated then there are a range of prescription medications that your Doctor may prescribe for you to use in combination with the above healthy lifestyle measures.

Next Steps

Talk to a Pharmacist at your local Pharmacy 777 to discuss any blood pressure concerns or questions that you may have. We also offer a blood pressure monitoring service and can provide advice on improving lifestyle factors that could be of benefit to you.

The Pharmacist may choose to perform an in-store medicine review of your current medications including any over the counter medication that may be affecting your blood pressure. If our Pharmacists feel it is necessary, you will be referred to a GP and on request the Pharmacist can write a referral outlining the treatment used to date and the concerns that need to be investigated.

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* Heart Foundation information sheet “Your blood pressure”
^ http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/blood-pressure-causes