What is blood pressure?

On average the heart beats around 70 to 80 times a minute. This pumping action drives blood through the arteries out to various parts of the body – it returns to the heart via the veins. Blood pressure is a measure of the force put on the muscular walls of the arteries.

Why is it important?

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, puts strain on the blood vessels. This can lead to structural changes, causing the vessels to thicken and deteriorate and means the heart has to work harder to push blood through. These changes can eventually cause serious problems, including stroke.

There are a number of reasons for this. High blood pressure can cause clots of cholesterol and other fatty substances to break off from the arterial walls, blocking arteries in the brain. It contributes to the furring of arteries, making them more vulnerable to blockage by blood clots. And the excess stress on blood vessels may cause them to burst and lead to bleeding into the brain, another cause of stroke.

How often should it be checked?

People under the age 65 without hypertension should have their blood pressure checked at least once every five years.
However, blood pressure may be checked much more frequently, for instance in women taking the contraceptive pill or who are pregnant, or in people with other medical conditions or who are taking certain medications.

What factors affect blood pressure?

There are a number of risk factors linked to high blood pressure.

  • Age. Older people are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
  • Ethnic group. High blood pressure is more common in Afro – Carribeans.
  • Hereditary. Those with a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke are at increased risk.
  • Gender. Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
  • Other factors. Being overweight, too much salt, sedentary lifestyle, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, oral contraceptives may also contribute to raised blood pressure.

What can i do?
  • Stop smoking
  • Lose any excess weight.
  • Stick to recommended alcohol limits – no more than two or three units per day for women and three to four units for men ( a unit is a small glass of wine, a single measure of spirit, or half a pint of beer ).
  • Avoid binge drinking.
  • Eat a healthy diet low in saturated fat and high in fibre. Include five servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Reduce your salt intake. Avoid adding salt when cooking or at the table.
  • Take regular exercise. As little as 30 minutes of brisk walking three to five times a week can make a difference.

Information Courtesy of:
The Stroke Association,
Stroke House,
Whitecross Street,
London EC1Y 8JJ

Telephone : 0207 566 0300
Fax: 0207 490 2686

For Further information visit the website
www.stroke.org.uk

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