High blood pressure (hypertension) 

Introduction 

Hypertension

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

Media last reviewed: 22/11/2013

Next review due: 22/11/2015

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Known as the "silent killer", high blood pressure (hypertension) rarely has obvious symptoms.

Around 30% of people in England have high blood pressure but many don't know it. If left untreated, high blood pressure increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

The only way of knowing there is a problem is to have your blood pressure measured

All adults should have their blood pressure checked at least every five years. If you haven’t had yours measured, or you don’t know what your blood pressure reading is, ask your GP to check it for you.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is recorded as two figures:

  • systolic pressure – the pressure of the blood when your heart beats to pump blood out
  • diastolic pressure – the pressure of the blood when your heart rests in between beats, which reflects how strongly your arteries are resisting blood flow

    For example, if your GP says your blood pressure is "140 over 90", or 140/90mmHg, it means you have a systolic pressure of 140mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 90mmHg.

    You are said to have high blood pressure (medically known as hypertension) if readings on separate occasions consistently show your blood pressure to be 140/90mmHg or higher.

    A blood pressure reading below 130/80mmHg is considered to be normal.

    Who is most at risk?

    Your chances of having high blood pressure increase as you get older. There is often no clear cause of high blood pressure but you are at increased risk if you:

    • are overweight
    • have a relative with high blood pressure
    • smoke
    • are of African or Caribbean descent
    • eat too much salt
    • don't eat enough fruit and vegetables
    • don't do enough exercise
    • drink too much coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
    • drink too much alcohol 
    • are aged over 65

    If you fall into any of the groups listed above, consider making changes to your lifestyle to lower your risk of high blood pressure. Also consider having your blood pressure checked more often, ideally about once a year.

    Prevention and treatment

    You can take steps to prevent high blood pressure by:

    • losing weight if you need to
    • reducing the amount of salt you eat
    • exercising regularly
    • eating a healthy diet
    • cutting back if you drink too much alcohol
    • stopping smoking
    • cutting down on caffeine

    Find out more about how to prevent high blood pressure.

    If your blood pressure is found to be high, it will need to be closely monitored until it is brought under control. Your doctor will usually suggest changes to your lifestyle and, sometimes, medication to achieve this. Find out more about how blood pressure is treated.




    Page last reviewed: 04/07/2014

    Next review due: 04/07/2016

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    Comments

    The 40 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

    Ennis Bray said on 13 October 2014

    My blood pressure reading, on three occassions, has been around 145/85. This means my systolic pressure IS HIGH but my diastolic pressure IS NORMAL.

    Does this mean I have high blood pressure or not? My nurse could not tell me the last time I was checked. Do both numbers need to be over 140/90 or is it just one over the relevant number?

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    xshareenx said on 09 September 2014

    I'm 27 and have had readings of 220/200 for the last month or so, I've been admitted into hospital with this and put on medication, I haven't had a high blood pressure in the past other than through pre eclampsia during pregnancy a few years ago, the doctor says that the medication is for life although I really don't want to be taking tablets for life, as there was no reason for the readings to have shot up so unexpectedly is it possible they might go back down by its self and I won't have to take the medication? Or if it stabilises to a suitable reading with the medication would I be able to come off them? Has anyone been able to stop taking the medication once readings have settled?

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    scouseacus said on 22 July 2014

    I'm 70 and was diagnosed with High BP and put on medication. After three months or so with the medication my BP is normal. GP has told me that medication is for life. Question: I've been on holiday and declared high BP and the insurance cost an arm and a leg. Now that BP has stabilised do I need to declare high BP?

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    Dinkidots said on 21 January 2014

    I am 40 years old and I had a kidney infection two years ago
    I never had problems with blood pressure
    I went for a routine blood test check and my GP thought I broke the BP machine
    It was 310/120 ,
    I wasm admitted to hospital for nearly 2 weeks :O(
    Anyway I am having regular check ups at home and with my renal consultant now and it has gone down to 130/70 which is rather good
    I am not overweight (168cm and my weight is 49.5 kg) and I am a really active person I commute to work most days on my push bike (30 miles in total) .
    I do have the white coat syndorome though and get frustrated with this...... but getting better :O)

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    Oistins said on 21 November 2013

    I am at present still suffering with High BP.. I had a BP reading today at my GP of 170/90.. I am overweight according to the chart classed as obese... 5ft 3 and weighing 14st 4lbs.. I

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    12berm said on 15 September 2013

    Just started BP meds. I took my BP and is was 171 over 90. I nearly fell over! It's has never been that high ever. Anyone out there had that experience?

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    kate38 said on 01 May 2013

    Hi im 38 and had slightly raised bp for years last time it was checked it was 152/92 after the 3rd attempt highest was 156/96. docs wont do anything about it really its always been around that number ive experienced ringing in my ears when i get stressed and presume its to do with my bp but hey its not high enough to worry about is it.

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    bp beater said on 29 December 2012

    hi to all i just want to say i feel for all you people with high blood pressure i too have suffered from this problem and have learnt a few skills to better manage and beat blood pressure first of all we all go in a state of panic when we see the high numbers on the blood pressure monitors and make it worse by worrying about it .i have learnt it is all about life style changes sure do the obvious lose weight exercise regularly avoid stress if you've been put on medication by your doctors continue to use them on a regular bases until your doctor tells you to stop .also no one has touched upon the subject of deep breathing which is drug free most people do not use there lungs to there full capacity hence less oxygen intake which leads to high bp that's why when you exercise your blood pressure drops due to increase in oxygen .when you've got high blood pressure its time to take things easy slow down don't be a headless chicken do some deep breathing exercises few times a day take deep breaths in exhale slowly for 10 to 15 minutes put your headphones on and listen to relaxing music while you deep breath also attend yoga if your fit enough to go there .all this has made my blood pressure normal good luck don't worry be happy

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    Ladywriterwriter said on 16 August 2012

    I have read some comments here and understand what you are all going thru, alas my other comment I was diagnosed at 35 with hypertension. Mother died from hypertension she was in her 50's and my Dads in care now for dementia, but he had mini strokes and heart attacks previously. So I have inherited this from them. I have recently been put on two different meds now as one wasn't working and my readings are like. 152/103, I am a little over weight but not really fat. Dropped exercise 2wks since having wisdom tooth out, as told needed to rest as then got dry socket afterwards so had to stop exercise even longer.

    In answer to some questions above.
    If your bp is 140/90 or more, see your gp. If you are concerned anyway, see your GP. Even if top or bottom number is high and other low, see GP.

    It does not matter if you are right weight, under weight or over weight, if your GP does not treat for high bp, then find another GP. This is your life at risk not theirs.

    If your on new meds or had them changed then the GP should be monitoring you to make sure they are working and no side affects. Plus if all is ok they should still do you blood tests once a year as well.

    I think BP should be checked on everyone yearly. It should be a policy, as it is with the smear test. But blood monitors are easy to buy now and we do have the option to check ourselves as well.

    When I joined new GPs I had a health check, which involved urine sample, bp check and blood tests. and they asked me health questions and about family medical history.

    Earlier I rang up nhs and spoke to a doctor as my bp was very high and I had a headache come on. I gave her info of my new meds, she said it takes time for them to work, I am seeking my gp again in 2wk.

    I think that more people need to be forward and ask more questions and view their concerns to the GP. I left a previous GP because they didnt seem to care.

    Patient losses is not good for them or their reputation.

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    Ladywriterwriter said on 13 August 2012

    I was diagnosed with hypertension at 35 years old, I have never smoked, not a big salt eater, dont drink hardly any alcohol either, but my Mother had a stroke and hypertension and died years ago and my Father now has heart disease and had heart attacks. Both smoked. So mine is inherited as it were. I am now 44 and my bp even on meds keep showing high, the doc wants to test me and been testing at home to with a own bp monitor. not happy about the high readings. but thats the way it is. They said they may put a 24hr bp monitor on me. I am not happy that my body is not working properly, I also have underactive thyroid. on meds for that now to. Welcome to getting older and getting all these problems.

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    clementi said on 08 March 2012

    I've been diagnosed with malignant hypertension and I'm quite confused about what it does and doesn't mean!

    I know it doesn't relate to cancer, the 'malignant' bit simply means it's very serious, but still, the term worries me (which isn't great when you're trying not to get stressed!) I did have a hospital admission where they did a plethora of tests and my GP is considering admitting me again as the treatment hasn't worked too well so far. They are still looking into various possibilities as to causes as there may be an actual cause, as opposed to it being simply malignant hypertension for no particular reason.

    I've been Googling (I'd advise anyone else not to do this!) and now feel even more worried as the potential for organ damage seems huge. I have a great GP to whom I can talk quite easily and they give me loads of time for appointments and are very careful (always doing bloods and taking hospital advice if unsure etc) but I'm wondering if anyone else has had experience of this or of treatment for this as, currently, mine is up and down like a yo yo since I've been on the medications. But, oftentimes, it's the same as it was prior to tablets. This is the second lot of tablets (a combination now) that they've tried and it seems to come down a little initially and then just shoot back up again. As I say, I'm still waiting to see if there may be some other cause which could be treated but I'm a little concerned about it all and not sure where to look for reliable info so just wondered if anyone else had experience of this please? Thanks.

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    addicted said on 08 March 2012

    I have suffered with high blood pressure for over 2 years but it is controlled with medication and is usually good when I have my readings at my doctors.
    I exercise 6 times a week which include cardio classes and running. However this last two weeks I have started to do a particular hard class that is attended by males as it's that hard. ( I am female). i have managed the class but have had the most horrendous headache at 3am the following morning.
    Maybe it is just s coincidence that I am getting these heads after the classes?? but I was told a while ago by a personnal trainer that there is certain exercise that I should not do due to suffering with BP. Can anyone shed any light on this for me?

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    vandal157 said on 28 February 2012

    I have had a a "high blood pressure" problem for over 2years now.Anytime i have my blood pressure checked at the GP its an average of 160/100. i bought myself a blood preesure machine to check it whilst i am at home and i have always scored an average of 130/90 or less. last year i was pescribed amlodepine which i have failed to take regularly.
    Now myproblem starts this month when i read about "white coat" blood pressure whereby blood pressure surges at the sight of nurse or doctor, so i told the gp what i had read and he suggested i take a 24 hr bp check whilst i was off my medication. I have just finished with my 24 hr check and the results are amazing. i have an average of 127/77.
    Now what do i do.

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    cjtsmith said on 13 February 2012

    I have recently been diagnosed with very high BP. This was quite a shock to me as I felt perfectly fine, but I have had to come to terms with the fact - rather than resisting it as I did at first. I have made several changes to my lifestyle and am on two types of medication, but I am worried because so far nothing seems to be working. My most recent measurement was 190/100, which is higher than when I first started taking the tablets.

    I have cut out all salt, caffeine and eat plently of high fibre foods. I already don't drink more than 3-4 units per week, and have never smoked. I am exercising regularly and am trying to lose weight (not much success so far on that last point, admitedly).

    I don't like taking drugs at the best of times, but when they don't seem to be doing any good, it makes me wonder why I am bothering to take them at all.

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    kmannion said on 08 September 2011

    So if high blood pressure is a big problem in this country, how come GPs don't take a persons blood pressure as a matter of course. I have registered at, and attended, three different surgeries in the last three years (due to work moves) and not one has checked my blood pressure. So much for preventative action. Surely this should be routine?

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    rogerbowen said on 15 May 2011

    My BP did not reduce but I managed to get my parathyroid operation at Canterbury and it was efficiently carried out.
    I now have to see if calcium levels are balanced and see if BP lowers. I am on prescribed meds with the normal side effects but will return to a herbalist at the first opportunity.

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    tr1gg56 said on 04 May 2011

    Sorry about double blogs ....internet connection problems!

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    tr1gg56 said on 04 May 2011

    Totally messed up that figure it should have read 147/92, I know it's high according to the charts but I am quite overweight and do not get a lot of exercise but that's all changing. I've started a Wellness course which gives me upto 24 at Weight Watchers for free and 15 weeks at my local Wellness Centre for a reduced sum. I've lost over a stone in weight and feel a lot healthier though still have a long way to go. As these courses were recommended by my GP I don't understand why the panic on the BP and why not wait until the courses are over and see what total effect they have?

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    tr1gg56 said on 04 May 2011

    Now that just proves what a 'spin' I was in totally messed up the numbers, should've said 147/92. It's been around that for some years, ten years ago when I first moved to the North East and registered with my GP the practice nurse told me I needed to make an urgent appointment to see my GP. I did so, he took one look at the results, glanced at me and said I don't consider your bp to be high and that was that. Now some years later and a different GP it's all changed. I've also been told I may have an enlarged liver as well, geezz age certainly brings it's problems!

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    tr1gg56 said on 03 May 2011

    I've just been told I have high bp, an average of 193/47. I have also recently started a wellness program suggested by my practice nurse following an operation on my arm. Reading the comments made I think my GP will have to make an extremely good case to get me to accept any medication!

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    rogerbowen said on 09 April 2011

    I have now agreed to take prescribed medicine in order to get my parathyroid operation. I can only hope that after putting up with side effects my BP will be low enough for the op to proceed otherwise I will not be happy.

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    rogerbowen said on 12 March 2011

    Hypertension
    I want an operation for parathyroid disease but I am refused because my BP is too high.
    In the pre admission tests the nurse said we have to be cautious if you have the following,
    Swollen feet and ankles
    Trouble breathing when walking
    Dizzy spells and falls
    Over weight

    I am then prescribed antenolol and bendrofluazide which, wait for it, CAUSE ALL OF THE ABOVE.
    Do doctors know what they are prescribing. Can any doctors respond ?
    I have already told doctors that I will not take any drug that causes a repeat of my depressions so I will not be taking the medicines. The thing is that if I could get the operation my BP would fall and my kidney stones would disappear.

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    Sunflower214 said on 10 March 2011

    Hello, I am a 45 year old female, 150 pounds, 5'9" tall, and an exercise freak... I eat healthily, have never smoked and am an occasional drinker. I run up to 20 miles per week in addition to everything else that I do. Today I visited my GP who routinely took my BP - the lower reading was 100 which then dropped after a minute to 90 - she said it was high and recommended a repeat test the following week. I am currently on medication as a result of work related anxiety/depression (Citalopram) and have been for almost 12 months now. Could this cause an increase in my BP or could it just be the complexities of my current status at work?? Feel more worried now. What do you think?

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    rogerbowen said on 07 March 2011

    After 45 years on prescribed BP meds I have elected to use herbal medicines. I personally got fed up with all the many side effects including depression. I do have a problem now in so much that the health professionals say they will not operate upon me unless I use their drugs.
    I recommend that patients newly dianosed with hypertension ask their doctors for alternatives.

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    GeorgeAlfredHunt said on 12 December 2010

    My doctors have told me that there isn't a need to have my blood presure checked for 5 years. I am now 61.
    I was told back in the 1960's that you should have your blood presure checked every year when you reach the age of 60.
    To see a doctor these days is very hard and they are not working now at weekends, or at least not here in Sleaford

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    catspaw666 said on 07 December 2010

    My GP calls me in once a year to take my blood pressure which is done by the practice nurse,it was always very high, but as I have never been given any meds or advice I resorted to self medicating after extensive online research on USA based web sites, I've been called in again but as I have no faith in the practice I will decline as I seem to be handling it well myself, gone teetotal, getting better exercise, watching my diet and losing some weight......who checks up on GPs and their practice.....do they have to fill out statistics? Maybe just asking me to come in fulfils their responsibility.....

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    Leo BFG said on 27 November 2010

    For surreylenny, always get a 2nd or 3rd opinion from others doctors within the same practice as your GP or within the area (as a temporary patient or change GPs). For such a serious condition, it is worth pursuing.

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    surreylenny said on 22 November 2010

    Hi, my blood pressure is reading at 187 over 119 and that is at a weekend, I have no idea what it is at work, when I am stressed. Both my parents are dead, My Mum died of a stroke at age 63. My G.P is not interested, and says because I weigh less than 8 stone I am not a health risk. My Mum was also tiny, but her blood pressure was monitored before she had her stroke. What can I do if my G.P. won`t help. The last 2 times I visited the Doctor (for I.B.S.) she did not even take my blood pressure. I am very concerned because it seems to get higher each time. I also suffer from headaches.
    Any help/advice would be welcome

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    Tenerife said on 12 September 2010

    As in Graduates comment I have been having trouble with a persistent dry cough which is causing a very sore throat and have had to sleep sitting up as other positions cause vomiting (perhaps indigestion) and with wheezing and shortness of breath was concerned to see these symptoms listed on the leaflet accompany my Ramipril medication. This being so I discontinued taking these tablets until I can see my GP. Hopefully the GP will be able to sort this out.

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    graduates said on 05 May 2010

    Hi Jim99, Sorry not logged on beforehand. Yes I do agree with you about Lisinopril tabs. I was prescribed these after Candasartan because pressure not coming down quick enough and yes I suffered tremors sometimes with my hands through I suspect the anxiety and possible panic attacks which I did not think related then. Now prescribed Perindopril with a second B/p tab, Amlodopine. The two seem to be working together ok for B/p but the Perindopril has caused a very dry cough, which is very enoying and now and then get palpitations and itchy skin. Palpitations can be a little scarry. I have made yet another appt to see GP. I do k now side-effects will happen with medications but my throat is really sore and I feel I have a chest infection. On thinking about it, it is better than the anxiousness and panic attacks. Just searching for a happy medium in side affects whilst on the tabs. This may prove difficult and a long haul but willing to try different medications to put my blood pressure down into the happy medium so to speak. Obviously we are all looking, or trying to, improve our health and wellbeing. Iv now taken to the BNF myself to actually read up on side effects of drugs etc and I will be suggesting alternatives to my GP. I want to carry on with life k nowing I am not a HIGH risk of stroke or heart attack. I have changed my diet, more healthy, walk a lot over the day, so exercising and walk the dog, alt hough he takes me for a walk. Much quicker than I want too on occasion. Hope you sort your meds out soon. Question what you are getting and make him/she ex plain. They may be doctors but we are taking the meds and having the side effects, they are not knowing first hand. WE ARE and they will not know and understand if we don't say. YOU HAVE A VOICE, let them hear it.
    Good luck Graduates.

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    ronald57 said on 22 March 2010

    i am 57 years old and have been on quite a lot of different types of blood pressure tablets,i am currently on 7.5 ramipril and 25 mils atenolol.at one stage things got really uncomfortable my skin was burning up especially my legs at night and i asked my doctor to book me in with a specialist .the cardiologist asked all the questions and i had alot of tests including a nuclear heart scan and 24 hour blood pressure moniter but nothing was conclusive . i seemed to improve when i was off work and wondered if it was stress.however i have started again with my face and legs burning up especially after having a meal .i feel anxious and stressed at times so my g.p has put me on cipralex just taken my 1st tablet today my gp said my bp was 150/100 and to have it checked again in 2 weeks ithopught it could have been higher at times

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    pat16 said on 15 March 2010

    I have written before regarding my blood pressure and how the doctor tried 8 or 9 different tablets all of which made me ill. After changing doctors In the last 3 months he arranged for me to be fitted with a 24hour blood pressure monitor on two occassions. After finding the results he has said he his not surprised I was feeling so ill with the tablets as most of the time my blood pressure is fine and they would just be taking it far too low. I am not on any tablets at all for it now as he his quite satified with everything. He has suggested I could try an arm monitor myself from time to time if I want to keep a further check but does not recommend the ones that go around the wrist.

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    Jim99 said on 08 March 2010

    I have very slightly raised blood pressure, normally 140/100 i have been on Lisinopril for about 3 years now, and it tends to read about 140/98 now, so no real improvement.
    But where I do suffer now, is I get terrible anxiety and panic attacks, I can only put this down to the tablets, as it all started at the same time. Does anyone else experience this at all? Would be intertested to hear..

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    cresswell kelly said on 01 March 2010

    im a 29 yr old women who suffers from high blood pressure, (hypertension) my bp is normally around 152/111, the highest its ever been is 200/178, im on ramipril 10mg, betabloker's 2.5mg and gastro-resisitant 20 mg, im on them 4 life. ova the last yr my weight as dropped from 14st to 11st 8lbs, with no diet used, ive gone fron a size 16-18 to a size 10-12 im loving all that, thats 1 good thing, the prob's i have with bp recently is at night time around 9pm i have blotches appear under my neck just on my chest and i can feel my skin burning and its all red just in a certain place on my chest, ive had this now for a couple of wks. my skin is perfectly normal in the day it only comes at night every night. does any 1 else get this problem?

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    Limegrover said on 30 January 2010

    I am 78 years old and in the last three years I have become type 2 diabetic (which I am controlling satisfactorily) and in addition I have raised blood pressure which averages around 145/60. I have been on several different types of medication over the last three years .which have made me feel pretty grotty at times but the worse aspect is that there has been no improvement in the readings at all. I now have patches of eczema on my lower legs and a lot of the time I itch all over. Applying a cream helps but where is it coming from?
    Also I am in constant back pain and any undue exercise causes arthritic pains to knees, shoulders etc.
    I am theorising that I may have acidic blood but I am not sure about this. In fact I am getting fed up with my preoccupation with health matters and find it rather depressing so I have sympathy with the contributor who is considering chucking it all in.
    I realise that you may think that at my age I should expect this but the trouble is I do not feel my age and I am busy helping my daughter and children and I wish to continue doing this for many years longer.
    Incidentally I have reduced progressively my medications and I am trying a programme by Christian Goodman. This does seem to help and I would recommend any fellow sufferer to consider this method which is broadly based on focussed meditation. Anything is better than conventional treatment I feel.
    Incidentally my systolic pressure is still about the same despite the removal of the drugs.

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    mikeiow said on 26 January 2010

    I too am wondering about the worth of tablets. After a hideous reaction to a 'pril, I have been trying ARB's (Amias) for several months: now been on 32mg for 2 months and the BP remains a constant average of around 161/105.
    The doctors next step will be to add in a CCB or diuretic (or eventually no doubt both), but I cannot see how taking these are having *any* impact on my body at all.

    I think I need to drop off them and assess my lifestyle myself. Interesting to hear others with similar experiences !

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    mandie1972 said on 02 January 2010

    i have suffered high blood pressure average readings 185/125 for many years even though im on lots of different tablets ,18 mths ago aged 36 i had a heart attack ..... i still have high blood pressure,still on tablets 9 diff sorts now, that was up until christmas when i promptly told my gp that i had stopped taking all my tablets ,my blood pressure readings are no diff from when i was on the tablets so do they actually work ???? i think not for everybody .

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    peachey380 said on 24 November 2009

    Any body using a cuff blood pressure monitor at home?
    I've been using one for a year now and get very different readings depending on a lot of factors.My best readings (122/73 and 110/83) I obtained when I took my blood pressure 10mins after running 6 miles and after drinking quite a lot after a party! My worst reading of 171/113 was taken sitting quietly at home.After taking many readings, the best I can say is that my average blood pressure is around 134/82 and I can infuence readings by around 10mm just by thinking of good or bad things in my life!

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    LizbethG said on 02 November 2009

    I have had similar problems with my pressure although not as high generally it is around 154/108 if I am ill with Fibromyalgia even when on tabs. I have had too much time off work and it is worrying me also so this does not help on my 5th type of tabs so far. There was a programme on ITV last week that was trialling a Proforma diet for blood pressure although not sure how to get on the diet I will be asking the doc today as it showed excellent results without tabs. Is it Fybromyalgia that causes the high blood pressure or is it coincidence?

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    pat16 said on 19 October 2009

    Just wondering if anybody else as trouble with blood pressure tablets. I have been on 8 different types but all have made me really ill. I also suffer from Fibromyalgia and have three worn discs in my back so already take over 20 tablets daily. The last time I tried a different blood pressure tablet it seemed to have less problems than the others so I managed to stick with it for 4 weeks only to find my blood pressure went up to the highest it is ever been 217/114. I am beginning to think I might as well just take my chances and at least have a little bit of quality with my life on the rare days when my fibromyalgia and back pain tablets seem to help. Any advise would be welcome.

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