By Ann Marie McShane, Public Health Nurse.
High blood pressure. You have probably heard your friends talk about it, you parents talk about it, and your doctor talk about it. But what do people mean when they say ‘blood pressure’ and does it matter if our blood pressure is a bit high? Isn’t it something we can all live quite happily with if we just, well, ignore it?
The short answer is ‘no’, I’m afraid. First of all we have to understand what blood pressure is and what it means when we say it is high. High blood pressure means that your heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body. This can lead to heart attack or stroke and increase your risk of dementia. In fact, at least half of all heart attacks and strokes are due to high blood pressure.
The problem is that high blood pressure doesn’t have any symptoms. Lots of people have high blood pressure – and are putting themselves at greater risk of becoming ill – without even knowing it. Many people only find out that they have high blood pressure after having a stroke or heart attack. Scary stuff.
The only way to know whether you have high blood pressure is to have it measured.
What causes high blood pressure? Unfortunately, there isn’t a straightforward answer. Several things can increase our risk of getting high blood pressure. Not being active, being overweight or obese, drinking too much alcohol and having too much salt in our diet all increase our risk. You can also be at risk because of your family history, or if you are of African-Caribbean or South Asian ethnicity.
This is why we want everyone to get a blood pressure test – because high blood pressure can affect anyone.
Having your blood pressure tested is quick and painless. An arm band is placed around your upper arm which will gently inflate and take a measurement. Simple.
If you have high blood pressure there are some simple lifestyle changes that you can make to lower your blood pressure. Losing a bit of weight, being more active, or quitting smoking will all help. In Telford and Wrekin, our friends at the Healthy Lifestyles service can help you through making these changes. Remember – even the smallest step is a step in the right direction. To find out more about what you can do to manage high blood pressure click here.
So this is the challenge that we have in Public Health. We want people to have their blood pressure measured so that they can take control and make a few simple changes to manage or improve it.
Everyone should know their blood pressure. We would like knowing your blood pressure to be as normal as knowing your height, weight or postcode! It is recommended that people over 40 in particular, know their blood pressure. At least half of people aged over 50 have high blood pressure.
We are thrilled to have won funding from British Heart Foundation to roll out a ground-breaking community based approach to help people in Telford know their blood pressure. We want to make blood pressure testing a normal part of people’s lives – by making testing available to people in their own communities in the borough.
If you can spare five minutes, you can help us to set up our testing programme and help to make it the best it can be. Please click here to take part in our survey and tell us where and how you would be happy to have your blood pressure tested.
Until we have our pilot up and running, you can still have your blood pressure tested for free by the Healthy Lifestyles Service, who have appointments available all across Telford. Just call 01952 382 582 to find out more. You can also pop in to your local pharmacy without any appointment needed.