Keep your blood pressure down

If your blood pressure is too high it can damage your blood vessels, and in time this leads to kidney damage.

High blood pressure can also increase your chance of having a heart attack or stroke.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is a measure of the action of the heart. The heart muscle squeezes and relaxes with each heartbeat. When it squeezes, blood is pumped out of the heart into the body; when it relaxes blood rushes into the heart ready for the next beat.

Blood pressure is written as two numbers to reflect these two phases e.g. 130/80. The top number is a measure of the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart is squeezing. The bottom number is a measure of the pressure when your heart is relaxing. Both numbers are important.


High blood pressure

Causes of high blood pressure


What causes high blood pressure?

  1. Genetic: we know that high blood pressure can run in families, so if your relative has high blood pressure you should get yours checked too.
  2. Diet and exercise: eating foods high in fat and salt and not exercising enough lead to weight gain which raises your blood pressure.
  3. Ethnicity: if you are of African Caribbean or Asian background you are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
  4. Diabetes: causes stiffening of the blood vessels which causes high blood pressure.
  5. Other medical conditions such as problems with your heart and kidneys.

Why is it a problem?

Over 1 billion people around the world have high blood pressure. In the UK, it is the most common reason to be started on regular medication. A high blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.

Most people with high blood pressure will not have any symptoms so it is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly by your doctor. If you have diabetes or diabetic kidney disease, it should be checked every time you go to a clinic.

Blood pressure around the world

Over 1 billion people around the world have high blood pressure

Blood pressure machine

What should my blood pressure be?

If you have diabetes and are under the age of 65 years your blood pressure target is 130/80. This target may change depending on your age and if you have other medical problems. Your doctor will be able to tell you what yours should be.

What can I do to keep my blood pressure healthy?

There are lots of things you can do to keep your blood pressure within the healthy range. Most of these are simple lifestyle choices.

If you are started on medication for your blood pressure it is important to take your tablets every day. If you experience side effects, tell your doctor so that they can change you to a different tablet.

It is easy to keep an eye on your blood pressure by getting it measured at your GP practice, local pharmacy or by using a home monitoring machine.

These are the most important things you can do to keep your blood pressure under control:

  • SaltEat a healthy low salt diet (less than 1 teaspoon a day).
  • ScalesLose weight and maintain a healthy BMI (19-25).
  • BikeExercise for 30 minutes 5 times a week.
  • AlcoholDon't drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

Body mass index and blood pressure

The majority of adults in the UK are overweight or obese according to national health studies.

If you're of Asian descent you have a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes at a lower BMI and waist circumference. A healthy BMI for you would be 18.5-23.

BMI calculator

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BMI is a standard way of measuring if people are a healthy weight for their height.

For people of Asian descent, 23+ puts you at risk of heart disease and diabetes.



The Eatwell Guide

The Eatwell Guide shows how much of what you eat should come from each food group. You can download a copy from the NHS Choices website.

Think Kidneys

Think Kidneys – the national campaign to raise awareness of our kidneys – their importance for life and health and how to look after them.

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