Blood pressure is a measure of the force that your heart uses to pump blood around your body.
Blood Pressure – do you know your numbers?
Did you know that one in three adults in the UK have high blood pressure?
This is a problem because high blood pressure increases risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage and eye problems. People with high blood pressure are three times more likely to develop heart disease and stroke and twice as likely to die from these as people with a normal blood pressure.
High blood pressure rarely has any symptoms; the only way for people to know if they have the condition is to have their blood pressure regularly measured. All adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every five years.
What does your blood pressure reading mean?
Find out what your blood pressure reading means with this simple tool. High blood pressure can raise your risk of developing serious conditions like heart disease and dementia.
Using the example of a 140/90 reading, the top figure is the pressure in your arteries when your heart has just beaten, while the bottom figure is the pressure in your arteries when your heart is at rest. Both are equally important for your overall health. Your heart and blood vessels are damaged when both these are too high.
Blood pressure is recorded with two 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
- ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
- low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower
High blood pressure is a level consistently at or above 140/90. The higher it is the higher your risks of heart disease and stroke.
Check your heart age
If you're 40 or over you can use this tool before your NHS Health Check to get an idea of what your results might show. 30-40 year olds can use it too. It will give you a heart age plus lots of advice about improving your heart health.
How can I reduce my blood pressure?
You can help reduce your blood pressure by:
- quitting smoking
- being more active
- losing weight
- reducing salt in your diet
- drinking less alcohol
But sometimes this isn’t going to be enough and you will need treatment as well to bring it down.
Checking your own blood pressure
You can get your blood pressure checked in your GP, pharmacy or local gym. You could measure it yourself at home with a blood pressure monitor you can buy from £10. The British Hypertension Society provide information on monitors that have been checked for accuracy.
The British Heart Foundation provides some videos on how to measure your blood pressure and and high blood pressure. They also provide videos in British Sign Language which can be found on their British Heart Foundation website.
What do I do if my reading is high?
Consult your healthcare professional if you get several high readings. A single high reading of blood pressure is not an immediate cause for alarm, however if you get a high reading, take your blood pressure again on at least two occasions. If your readings are consistently above 140/90, you can discuss this with your pharmacist, practice nurse or GP.
For more information, visit NHS Choices
Page reviewed and updated July 2020. Next review date: December 2020