What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the measurement of the pressure of blood in your arteries - the blood vessels that take blood away from your heart to the rest of the body.
Having high blood pressure increases your chance of having a heart attack (and stroke), even though you don't feel ill with high blood pressure.
But the good news is lowering your blood pressure lowers your chance of having a heart attack (or another if you've already had one).
What causes high blood pressure?
High blood pressure, often also called 'hypertension', can be caused by a number of things including:
High blood pressure also tends to run in families.
Why is high blood pressure a risk factor for Coronary Heart Disease?
Having high blood pressure means that the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body.
How is blood pressure measured?
The machine that measures your blood pressure is called a 'sphygmomanometer'. A cuff is placed around your upper arm and is pumped up (this may feel slightly tight around your arm). Blood pressure is measured in units called called millimeters of mercury' (mmHg).
Blood pressure readings give two numbers:
In adults, the target blood pressure is below 140 / 85 (140mmHg systolic and 85mmHg diastolic). If you have Diabetes then the target is less than 130/80 (130mmHg systolic and 80mmHg diastolic)
If you don't know your own blood pressure ask your doctor or practice nurse.
Your blood pressure will move up and down each time it is measured, so it may take a few weeks or months to decide if your blood pressure is actually high enough to need treatment. If your blood pressure readings are high, get your blood pressure measured regularly and your treatment adjusted After that you should have it checked twice a year.
If you have high blood pressure you will probably need more than one kind of medicine, and many people need three medicines to keep their blood pressure down to a safe level. You should take the pills every day and probably for the rest of your life. If one kind of medicine does not suit you then there are several others to try. Tell your doctor or nurse if you think that your pills are giving you problems so that you can see if a change would help.
There is more information on medication in the "Medicines for Heart Disease" section.
Apart from taking medicines there are other things that you can do to get your blood pressure down.
There is more information on losing weight, healthy eating and physical activity in the Lifestyle Changes section.