High blood pressure is the most preventable cause of heart disease and stroke globally. Left uncontrolled, high blood pressure can lead to:
- Heart attacks
- Heart failure
- Kidney failure
- Cognitive impairment
So what constitutes high blood pressure and what blood pressure is normal?
What blood pressure is normal?
What blood pressure is normal is commonly considered to be 120/80. The top number is the pressure when the heart beats (systolic) and the bottom number is the pressure when the heart relaxes (diastolic). Both are measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). High blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher (or 150/90mmHg or higher if you’re over the age of 80). This table breaks down what blood pressure is normal:
High blood pressure symptoms
Many people have no symptoms at all but high blood pressure symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Nose bleeds
Make sure to measure your blood pressure and see your doctor if you are experiencing these high blood pressure symptoms.
High blood pressure causes
Most common of the high blood pressure causes is no specific cause at all; we call this essential hypertension. Various factors increase your risk:
- Older age
- Family history
- African or Caribbean origin
- High salt intake
- Lack of exercise
- Being overweight
- Excess alcohol
- Sleep deprivation
5% of cases have underlying high blood pressure causes, such as:
- Kidney disease or infections
- Sleep apnoea
- Hormonal problems including thyroid, Cushing’s, acromegaly, high aldosterone and phaeochromocytoma
- Lupus and scleroderma
- Medications including the contraceptive pill, steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen, some cough and cold remedies, herbal remedies with liquorice, recreational drugs like cocaine and amphetamines or antidepressants including venlafaxine
Blood pressure by age
As age is a risk factor, let’s consider blood pressure by age. What is normal blood pressure for people over 80? Below 150/90 when it’s measured in the clinic or surgery, and below 145/85 mmHg for home readings. It’s less clear if medications are useful if you’re over 80.
How can I control my blood pressure?
Obviously your doctor will offer you medications to control it; but we encourage lifestyle changes to manage health at Hippocrates Lounge, so here are some approaches:
- First things first - monitor your blood pressure!
Buy your own blood pressure monitor and keep a regular diary to see how your lifestyle is impacting it If you want a smarter monitor, you can use Qardio’s wireless blood pressure monitor that automatically keeps a diary on your smartphone (or you can use the app with your own device and log readings manually for a cheaper alternative)
- Use the DASH, low-carb or Whole30 food plans - focus on unprocessed foods
- 30 minutes of exercise per day - any sort of movement will do
- Lose weight - every 5kg lost reduces systolic blood pressure by 2-10mmHg
- Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day
- Limit caffeine intake - no fizzy drinks and limit to 1 cup of tea/coffee before 12pm per day
- Stop smoking - find your local support service
- Reduce stress - meditate, socialise, etc
The earlier you make all of these changes, the less likely you are to ever need medications so don’t delay! And if you need support through a personalised plan, book an appointment at Hippocrates Lounge.