Although 30% of the UK’s 63 million population suffer from hypertension, it is estimated that five million people do not know that they have the condition. More commonly known as high blood pressure, this lack of awareness is why hypertension is often labelled as “the silent killer”. World Hypertension Day on 17 May is a campaign aimed at increasing public awareness of the dangers of hypertension and the importance of a healthy lifestyle in managing it.
Hypertension is a condition in which your blood pressure is constantly higher than the recommended level. If left untreated, the heart may become enlarged and function less effectively, potentially resulting in heart failure. It is estimated that those suffering with the condition are three times as likely to develop heart disease and a stroke - and twice as likely to die from these - compared with a person with blood pressure within the normal range.
The causes of hypertension can include a lack of physical activity, too much salt in your diet, being overweight or obese, regularly drinking too much alcohol or having a family history of high blood pressure. It is recommended that everyone should have regular blood pressure checks at least every five years and that people who are aged 80 and over; suffer from diabetes; have had a previous high reading; or a previous reading between 130/85mm Hg and 139/89mm Hg should be checked annually.
If you are diagnosed with hypertension, you can take steps to lower your blood pressure by making simple changes to your lifestyle or by taking medication. Your GP will discuss your lifestyle habits with you and make recommendations on the changes you can make to improve your health. Your GP may also prescribe blood-pressure-lowering medication such as ACE inhibitors, Beta-blockers, Alpha-blockers or diuretics.