High blood pressure

Deven Seetanah, 24/7 Health support team manager

High blood pressure


8 April 2024

Around 16 million people in the UK are suffering with high blood pressure. That equates to around 1 in 3 adults and rises up to at least 1 in 2 in people aged over 651.

We take a look at the causes and what steps you can take to help prevent yours being too high.

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a very common medical condition, which often has no noticeable symptoms, so you may not realise you have it until your blood pressure is checked with a blood pressure test.

Our blood pressure refers to the pressure that is exerted onto our blood vessels when blood is pumped around the body by the heart. It's measured by two numbers; systolic and diastolic pressures, both measured in mmHg2.

The systolic pressure (the higher number) is a measure of the force at which you heart pumps blood around the body, the diastolic pressure (the lower number) refers to the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. When we are given a blood pressure reading this is referred to as systolic pressure/diastolic pressure e.g 120/80 mmHg.

What the numbers mean

As a general guide, we would be considered to have high blood pressure if:

  • as an adult our blood pressure is 140/90mmHg or above
  • if you are over the age of 80 and your blood pressure s 150/90 mmHg or above.

While we will all have different 'normal' blood pressures, and our blood pressure will fluctuate day to day and throughout the day an 'ideal' blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60 mmHg and 120/80mmHg.2

The risks of having high blood pressure

If our blood pressure remains elevated for long periods of time this can put an extra strain on our heart and cardiovascular system, as well as other organs in the body including our eyes, kidneys and brain.

This puts us at higher risk of developing certain conditions, some of which may be potentially serious or life changing.

Some of these potential complications include:

  • strokes,
  • heart attack,
  • peripheral artery disease,
  • vascular dementia,
  • kidney disease,
  • heart failure,
  • aortic aneurysms.

While this can all sound quite overwhelming, the good news is that high blood pressure is a very treatable condition and there are lots of lifestyle changes you can employ to reduce your blood pressure. Even a small reduction in your blood pressure can have a great impact on your health and wellbeing and reduce the risks of complications.

Causes of high blood pressure

Doctors may not be able to diagnose a specific cause for why someone has high blood pressure, but there are certainly some lifestyle and genetic factors that can increase the risk of us developing high blood pressure.

Some of the common risk factors of high blood pressure are:

  • Being overweight
  • Having a high salt diet
  • Limited physical activity
  • High levels of alcohol intake
  • Smoking
  • Difficulties with sleep
  • High caffeine intake
  • Older age
  • Genetics - having a family history of high blood pressure may mean we are at a higher risk of developing it ourselves
  • Being of black African or black Caribbean descent.3

Although there are some risk factors that we cannot change, being aware of these can be helpful in knowing whether we may be at higher risk and should have our blood pressure monitored more closely by our GP.

Treatments for high blood pressure

Having high blood pressure may put us at higher risk of developing the complications listed above, but the good news is that hypertension is very treatable with a number of lifestyle changes and/or medications.

Lifestyle changes

When we are diagnosed with hypertension our GP will often first offer some guidance on lifestyle changes to see if that is enough to reduce the blood pressure down to a safe level.

Some of these lifestyle factors include:

  • losing weight (if appropriate),
  • maintaining a low salt, healthy diet,
  • engaging in regular exercise,
  • managing stress levels,
  • and reducing alcohol and caffeine intake.4

If exercise is new to you, or you’re stuck in a fitness rut, then we have lots of tips and guidance on exercises you could try over in our exercise and fitness hub.

Our diet and nutrition hub is also full of information on what we should ideally be eating, and which food groups to have in moderation.

>Read more on how much salt we should be eating per day.

Sometimes, despite engaging in all the lifestyle changes as above, our blood pressure can remain high. If this is the case, it may be that your GP will need to look into medications that might help to reduce your blood pressure.

There are a number of different medications out there and your GP will be able to decide which is most appropriate for you.


  1. High blood pressure – Age UK
  2. What is high blood pressure? - NHS
  3. Causes of high blood pressure – BHF (British Heart Foundation)
  4. Treating and monitoring hypertension - NICE

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