We shouldn’t be waiting for the Heart Foundation’s Heart Week to come around in May each year to be reminded of the importance of diagnosing and treating high blood pressure.
The Heart Foundation is a charity dedicated to fighting the single biggest killer of Australians – heart disease.
For over 50 years, the foundation has led the fight to save lives and improve the heart health of all Australians.
Whenever they put the focus on high blood pressure, it is because that is one of the main risk factors for heart, kidney and blood vessel disease, as well as stroke.
Blood pressure is the pressure of blood on the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps it around the body. It’s a vital part of how the heart and circulation works.
Blood pressure naturally goes up and down all the time, adjusting to the heart’s needs depending on what a person is doing. The phrase ‘high blood pressure’ is used when it is persistently higher than normal.
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The problem is, people don’t know they have high blood pressure until they have it checked. There are no signs and symptoms.
Blood pressure that’s high over a long time (known as hypertension) is one of the main risk factors for heart disease. As people get older, the chances of having persistently high blood pressure increases.
The exact causes of high blood pressure are often not clear, but it can be influenced by family history, eating patterns (including salty foods), alcohol intake, weight, physical activity and some medicines.
Because you can’t feel high blood pressure, there are usually no warning signs.
The best way to know if someone has high blood pressure is to have it checked by a doctor or pharmacist.
The person will use a cuff around your arm that inflates and is linked to a device that measures the pressure.
Blood pressure can vary at different times of the day. Sometimes it can even go up just because someone is taking it, so it’s important to have an accurate measure of blood pressure.
The good news for people with hypertension is that it can be controlled.
This can be done through lifestyle changes (such as a change in diet, getting more exercise or reducing stressful situations) or by taking medicine (as determined and prescribed by a doctor).