High Blood Pressure or Hypertension is a common condition where the force of the blood flowing through your arteries is consistently too high which can cause ischaemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease. This can lead to heart attacks and strokes occurring.
According to the Irish Heart Foundation, more than 50% of men and women in Ireland aged over 45 have high blood pressure. Of these, 4/5's of men and 2/3's of women are unaware of and not being treated for this.
If you are over 30, you should have a regular heart check especially if:
- You sometimes feel short of breath at rest or lying down.
- You suffer with troublesome ankle swelling.
- You sometimes experience a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
There are many factors that can lead to high blood pressure - being overweight, eating too much salt, high alcohol intake, genetic predisposition, not eating enough fruit and vegetables are some. In some cases, high blood pressure may relate to underlying kidney, thyroid or adrenal problems.
Most people can have no symptoms of high blood pressure. A small minority may suffer headaches, nosebleeds or shortness of breath but as these symptoms are not specific to high blood pressure and generally only occur many years later, they are unhelpful in comprehensively diagnosing high blood pressure.
Prevention & Diagnosis
This will involve a blood test, an ECG and a blood pressure check. Occasionally, patients are anxious attending their doctor and this can lead to a false high blood pressure result. Your doctor will want to have multiple blood pressure data checks before making a diagnosis so you will be asked to wear a 24 hour Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitor. This monitor is a small device worn on your arm for a period of 24 hours while you go about your normal routine. Multiple readings are recorded over this time and analysed by your doctor.
Treatment for high blood pressure varies from lifestyle changes (dietary and weight loss changes) to medication. Your doctor will advise you based on the causes identified.