High Blood Pressure: Frequently asked Questions

Can you tell when your blood pressure is high?

Usually the only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured. Most people cannot tell if their blood pressure
is high any other way. Symptoms such as a headache or dizziness are very unusual, which is why it is important for you to have you blood pressure checked regularly. This is why high blood pressure is often known as the silent killer.

Should I measure my blood pressure at home?

Many people do measure their blood pressure at home as it helps them to feel more in control of their condition. There are a number of digital machines available for home use. If you are thinking of buying a machine, buy one that measures blood pressure from the top of your arm rather than at the wrist as, at the moment, these tend to give more accurate readings.

Your blood pressure readings will be lower at home because you are usually more relaxed. Make sure that you keep a record of your readings to pass onto your doctor or nurse.

Follow this link for full factsheet “How to measure your blood pressure” and this link for details about accurate monitors, recommended by the British Hypertension Society for home use.

How does age affect blood pressure?

As you get older your blood pressure is likely to rise. This means that you need to have your blood pressure checked every year so
that if it does start to rise you can take steps to lower it, such as changing your lifestyle. It does not matter what age you are, 140/90mmHg is the level for high blood pressure for everyone, whether you are 20 or 80. The old saying that the top number (systolic) of you blood pressure should be 100 plus your age is not true.

Will I need to have any tests or investigations

As well as having your blood pressure measured several times it may also be necessary for you to have some simple tests done. Your doctor will usually ask about your family and medical history, will often give you a urine and blood test and may also ask you to have
a recording of the electrical activity of your heart (ECG). Some people may also have blood pressure monitoring over a 24-hour period. A few people may need more detailed investigations but your doctor will discuss these with you.

How long does it take for lifestyle changes and medications to work?

This largely depends upon the individual. Reducing the amount of salt and increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables that you eat usually takes a few weeks to start having an affect on your blood pressure. Increasing the amount of exercise you do, and losing weight are more likely to take longer. Once you start taking a new medicine your doctor will usually ask you to take it for a month
and then check your blood pressure after that. By this time you should see how effective they are. However, not everyone finds the right tablet for them straight away and you may need to try several until you find one that works and that you feel happy taking.

Are there any other medicines that I can’t take if I am taking tablets for blood pressure?

Whenever you have other medicines, whether they are from your doctor or from your chemist always tell them that you are taking tablets for your high blood pressure. Some cold and flu medicines and some painkillers (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like Ibuprofen and voltarol) can interfere with some tablets for high blood pressure.

Does stress cause high blood pressure?

Many people do think that stress can cause high blood pressure, particularly long term stress at work or at home. Stressful situations
can cause your blood pressure to go up in the short-term, but it will come back down once that stress has gone. Long-term stress is not thought to cause high blood pressure on its own. However, if as a result of your stress you also have an unhealthy lifestyle, drinking alcohol excessively and being overweight for example, this may have an effect on your blood pressure.

If I have high blood pressure, will my children have it?

High blood pressure does run in families and it is even more important that if you have high blood pressure that you help your children
to lead a healthy lifestyle too. If your children follow the same diet that you should be following, take exercise and avoid being overweight they should be able to reduce their own risk of developing high blood pressure too.

How often will I need to see my doctor?

When you first find out that you have high blood pressure you will probably need to see your doctor quite regularly, to get your blood
pressure checked. Your doctor will also want to make sure that if you are taking tablets your blood pressure is well controlled and you feel well taking them. Once your blood pressure is well controlled then you will need to go less often. Your practice nurse can check your blood pressure and manage your condition and it may only be necessary for you to see your doctor every six months or every year, particularly if you check your own blood pressure at home. Everyone is different. Discuss your visits with your practice nurse and/or your doctor.

Key points

High blood pressure is very common in the United Kingdom. Many people with high blood pressure don’t know that they have it until it’s too late

High blood pressure that is not treated can lead to a heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney disease

High blood pressure can rarely be cured but it can be treated very effectively

Taking medicines and making changes to your lifestyle,such as reducing salt, eating fruit and vegetables and watching your weight can help to bring your blood pressure down and keep it down

If you need to take tablets to treat your blood pressure will almost certainly have to take them for life. However, they should not make you feel unwell or interfere in any way with your day-to-day activities.

Once your blood pressure is controlled you should feel and think of yourself as completely well