What is high blood pressure?

As your heart beats it pumps blood around your body. Blood pressure measures how strongly blood presses against the walls of your arteries (large blood vessels) as it is pumped around your body.
Blood pressure readings are made up of two numbers’
  1. systolic pressure‘ the pressure of the blood when your heart beats to pump blood out
  2. diastolic pressure‘ the pressure of the blood when your heart rests in between beats
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (which is written as mmHg).
A blood pressure reading below 130/80mmHg (a systolic pressure of 130mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 80mmHg) is considered to be normal.
If your blood pressure readings are consistently 140 over 90, or higher, over a number of weeks you probably have high blood pressure (hypertension). If just one of the numbers is higher than it should be over a number of weeks you may also have high blood pressure.
If blood pressure is too high it puts a strain on your arteries and your heart, which makes it more likely that you will suffer a heart attack, a stroke, kidney disease, cognitive decline and other medical complications.
‘At least one quarter of the adult population of the UK have hypertension, (blood pressure ‚Äö√¢‚Ä¢140/90mmHg) and more than half of those over the age of 60 years. As the demographics of the UK shifts towards an older, more sedentary and obese population, the prevalence of hypertension and its requirement for treatment will continue to rise.’- NICE CG127

Dr Lehman explains what high blood pressure is and why it should be treated.

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Last reviewed December 2011.