High blood pressure has no symptoms, but if it's not treated it can damage the kidneys, heart and brain.

Find out what can cause hypertension

Transcript of Hypertension

My name is Brian Williams.

I'm the professor of medicine at the University of Leicester

and the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

Under normal circumstances, a normal blood pressure in an adult

is less than 120/80.

If your blood pressure is persistently elevated,

and it's the persistent elevation which is important,

then it can cause damage to blood vessels,

the kidneys, the heart and the brain.

That's why we're interested in detecting people with a high blood pressure.

We call the high blood pressure hypertension.

About 25 per cent or one quarter of all adults have high blood pressure

that might benefit from treatment.

Once you get to the age of about 60,

then about half of all adults have high blood pressure,

so it's quite a common problem that gets more frequent with ageing.

As a doctor I often get asked by patients what causes it.

Well, in about 90 per cent or nine out of ten cases,

we can't identify a cause,

it's just that your blood pressure tracks

at a slightly higher level than what would be ideal.

In most cases we simply identify it and treat it.

One of the big problems about high blood pressure

is that it really doesn't cause any symptoms at all.

That creates a problem for us in medicine

because if you don't have symptoms,

the only way we can detect it is by routine screening.

And that is why having your blood pressure measured by your doctor

is really part of the routine examination your doctor will do

when he has the opportunity to see you perhaps about another illness,

or he may call you in to have a check periodically for blood pressure.

The other thing I would say is that if your doctor measures your blood pressure

or you measure it yourself and it's high,

don't be alarmed by that

because quite often the second time or third time it's measured

the blood pressure falls to a normal value.

Quite a lot of us get a slightly high blood pressure

when we have our blood pressure measured for the first time.

There are two approaches to treatment.

The first are things that you can do yourself.

We know that if you have a diet that is high in salt, for example,

some people are particularly sensitive to salt

and their blood pressure will rise.

So a diet that has a reduced level of salt may help lower your blood pressure.

Also because blood pressure is associated

with increased risk of cardiovascular disease,

if you have high blood pressure

we would often recommend a number of lifestyle changes

to try and reduce your blood pressure and your risk.

Inevitably we would recommend that you stop smoking if you smoke.

Inevitably we would recommend that you try and maintain your body weight

as an ideal body weight by taking some regular exercise.

If you drink alcohol, as many people do,

that's not a problem if you have high blood pressure,

but if you drink too heavily it can put your blood pressure up,

particularly binge-drinking, which can produce a surge in blood pressure.

So we would recommend that you have a sensible and moderate alcohol intake.

In terms of diet itself,

we would recommend that you eat the usual vegetables

and try and reduce the amount of fat in your diet,

all of which will be important

in reducing your overall cardiovascular risk.

We have a number of medications available.

Most of them need to be taken once a day.

Your doctor will select the medication that is best suited to you

based on your overall profile and your age, etcetera.

Another question that I often get asked,

particularly with a younger patient with high blood pressure,

is whether or not it runs in families.

Well, there is no doubt that if your parents have high blood pressure,

on average you have a slightly higher risk

of developing high blood pressure.

So if your mother and father have high blood pressure,

make sure you get your blood pressure checked.

In many cases it will be normal

but in some cases you may have inherited some of these unknown factors

that give rise to an elevation in blood pressure

that appear to be genetically determined.

So in terms of further advice,

if you've recently had your blood pressure measured as a one-off

or you've measured it yourself at the supermarket and found it a bit high,

I would say this.

If it's the first time it's been measured

it will need to have repeated measures

by your doctor or the nurse in your doctor's surgery

just to find out where it levels off at

and to see whether it's persistently high.

If it is persistently high, as I've discussed,

lifestyle changes can make a major impact on your blood pressure,

particularly maintaining an ideal body weight,

moderating your alcohol intake

and trying to avoid foods that contain too much salt in the diet.

If that doesn't work, and it doesn't for everybody,

then you may need drug treatment,

but I would like to reassure you that these days

the drugs that we use are really very well tolerated

and they are incredibly effective at controlling blood pressure

and, importantly, in reducing the risk

of stroke and heart disease later in life.


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