Hypertension is a very common heart condition among adults that occurs when a person’s blood pressure is consistently high. As your heart beats, blood is pumped around your body’s circulatory system through a network of arteries and veins. Your blood pressure measures the pressure on your circulatory system by using two numbers. Normal blood pressures should measure under 120/80. The first, or top number, is known as systolic and it represents the pressure at which the heart pumps your blood throughout your body. The second number which appears at the bottom, is called diastolic and this measures the pressure on your veins as the blood returns to the heart. Together, the numbers measure your blood pressure levels and persistently high measurements can be indicative of hypertension.

There are no specific known symptoms of hypertension and most diagnoses are made through screening at regular health check ups or when a patient presents for other complaints. If left untreated, hypertension can lead to serious and sometimes fatal illnesses including heart disease, stroke, eye diseases and a number of kidney-related complications. It is recommended that all adults, particularly those aged over 40, have their blood pressure checked by a medical professional as part of their regular health check ups in order to detect possible hypertension and prevent these life-threatening conditions.

Causes of hypertension are not always known. Less than 10% of all known cases can be attributed to related conditions such as kidney disease. The use of birth control pills has also been identified as a cause of developing high blood pressure. However, the majority of cases of hypertension do not have specific causes. Known factors that can put a person at risk of developing high blood pressure and hypertension include being overweight or obese, suffering from stress, low levels of physical activity or a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, being over 65 years old, drinking high volumes of alcohol or coffee and having a poor diet, particularly one high in sodium or salt intake. Instances of high blood pressure or hypertension are especially high among people of Afro-Caribbean heritage. Hypertension can also be genetic. In cases where a family member, especially a parent, has hypertension, it is recommended that you have your blood pressure checked by your doctor or suitably qualified medical professional.

High blood pressure can be lowered and chances of developing hypertension can be reduced by making healthier lifestyle choices. Cutting out cigarettes and cutting down on your intake of alcohol, coffee and salt will improve your overall health and contribute to lowering blood pressure. Other healthy lifestyle changes that will have a positive effect on your blood pressure include losing weight if you are overweight, introducing fruit and vegetables into your diet and eating these regularly, exercising daily and getting into a regular sleeping pattern with a minimum of 6 hours recommended per night.

If you have concerns about your blood pressure or hypertension, speak to your doctor about the steps needed to get your blood pressure under control. You may need to take medication. Your doctor will advise you on the best medication to be prescribed for you.