Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries . Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). Your blood pressure is recorded as two figures. For example, 120/80 mmHg.


Hypertension is a ‘silent killer’. There maybe no symptoms or mild symptoms like headache, swelling over face and feet, fatigue etc. It can lead to heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure. You will not know if you have high blood pressure unless you have your blood pressure checked.

Risk factors for heart problems

Everybody has some risk of developing heart disease. However, certain ‘risk factors’ increase the risk. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • An unhealthy diet
  • Excess alcohol
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • High cholesterol/triglyceride blood level
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney diseases
  • A strong family history. This means if you have a father or brother who developed heart disease or a stroke before they were 55, or in a mother or sister before they were 65
  • Being male
  • An early menopause in women
  • Age
  • Ethnic group. For example, people who live abroad with ancestry from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Sri Lanka have an increased risk


What is high blood pressure?

  • 120/80 or lower is normal BP
  • 140/90 or higher is high BP
  • 120-139 systolic and 80-89 diastolic is pre-hypertension

Depending on various factors, the level at which blood pressure is considered high enough to be treated with medication can vary from person to person.

Blood pressure between 130/80 and 140/90 mm is too high for certain groups of people. Treatment to lower your blood pressure if it is 130/80 mmHg or higher may be considered if you:

  • Have a complication of diabetes, especially kidney problems.
  • Have had a event such as a heart attack, transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or stroke, kidney disease.

How is high blood pressure diagnosed?

BP maybe high due to anxiety, stress, exercise, post meal or caffeine intake. A single BP reading that is high does not mean that you have hypertension. Several blood pressure readings that are high on different occasions checked in a relaxed environment indicate hypertension.

If one reading is found to be high, it is usual for your doctor or nurse to advise a time of observation. This means several blood pressure checks at intervals over time.

What is "white-coat hypertension"?

Some people have high BP on getting it checked in the medical clinic or hospital but are otherwise normotensive. To prove this, you may be advised ‘ambulatory blood pressure monitoring by a device which easily measures your blood pressure continuously over 24 hours.

What causes high blood pressure?

If there is no underlying cause identified for high BP, it is called ‘essential hypertension’. If there is any disease like a hormone imbalance or kidney disease, it is called ‘secondary hypertension’. Most people have essential hypertension. People who develop high BP at a young age should be investigated for secondary causes.

How common is high blood pressure?

Half of people over 65, and about 1 in 4 middle aged adults, have high blood pressure. There is increase in incidence in younger individuals due to work stress and lifestyle in a corporate culture. High blood pressure is more common in people:

  • With diabetes…
  • From African origin, from the Indian sub-continent.
  • With a family history of high blood pressure.
  • With certain lifestyle factors. That is, those who: are overweight, eat a lot of salt, don’t eat many fruit and vegetables, don’t take enough exercise, drink a lot of coffee (or other caffeine-rich drinks), or drink a lot of alcohol.

What are self help measures for hypertension?

  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fiber, potassium and water.
  • Limit salt intake to less than 1,500mg per day
  • Limit the amount of alcohol-1 drink a day for women,2 a day for men
  • Exercise atleast 30 minutes/day
  • Reduce stress, try yoga and meditation
  • Quit smoking-medical help is available
  • Lose extra weight

What are the medications available for high blood pressure?

Different groups of medication including ACE inhibitors, angiotenrin receptor blockers, beta-blockers, diuretics, calcium channel blockers,alpha blockers, vasodilators and combination pills are available . Choice of medication has to be individualised and depends on patient profile and other medical problems that the person suffers from. Doses may need to be adjusted from time to time.

What are the alarm symptoms?

  • Severe headache
  • Chest pain
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness/weakness in the body
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Any side-effects due to medication

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