Asthma

Useful Information / high blood pressure hypertension

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

More than 1 in 4 adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many will not realise it.

The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is recorded with 2 numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.

They're both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

As a general guide:

  • high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher (or 150/90mmHg or higher if you're over the age of 80)
  • ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg

Blood pressure readings between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you're at risk of developing high blood pressure if you do not take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.

Everyone's blood pressure will be slightly different. What's considered low or high for you may be normal for someone else.

Risks of high blood pressure

If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.

Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions, such as:

If you have high blood pressure, reducing it even a small amount can help lower your risk of these health conditions.

Check your blood pressure

The only way of knowing whether you have high blood pressure is to have a blood pressure test.

All adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every 5 years. 

Getting this done is easy and could save your life.

You can get your blood pressure tested at a number of places, including:

  • at your GP surgery
  • at some pharmacies
  • as part of your NHS Health Check
  • in some workplaces

You can also check your blood pressure yourself with a home blood pressure monitor.

Find out more about getting a blood pressure test

Causes of high blood pressure

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
  • are of African or Caribbean descent
  • have a relative with high blood pressure
  • eat too much salt and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables
  • do not do enough exercise
  • drink too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
  • smoke
  • do not get much sleep or have disturbed sleep

Making healthy lifestyle changes can help reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure and help lower your blood pressure if it's already high.

Find out more about the causes of high blood pressure

Reduce your blood pressure

The following lifestyle changes can help prevent and lower high blood pressure:

Some people with high blood pressure may also need to take 1 or more medicines to stop their blood pressure getting too high.

Find out more about how to keep your blood pressure healthy

Medicines for high blood pressure

If you're diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend taking 1 or more medicines to keep it under control.

These come as tablets and usually need to be taken once a day.

Common blood pressure medicines include:

The medicine recommended for you will depend on things like how high your blood pressure is, your age and your ethnicity.

Find out more about how blood pressure is treated

Social care and support guide

If you:

  • need help with day-to-day living because of illness or disability
  • care for someone regularly because they're ill, elderly or disabled (including family members)

Our guide to care and support explains your options and where you can get support.