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Friday, 9 September 2011

Why have a National Blood Pressure Week?

 In the UK, over 1,500 venues are offering free blood pressure checks during National Blood Pressure Week (12-18 September 2011). Why all that effort?   High blood pressure is a major preventable and treatable risk factor for serious heart diseases and stroke syndromes throughout the world. And even at the age of 20 around one in 20 people may already have high blood pressure, increasing to around 1 in 2 people by the age of 70.
An annual blood pressure week provides an important focus to remind the public and health professionals about risks of high blood pressure, how to prevent it, measure it accurately and use lifestyle and drugs in people in whom blood pressure is too high.
Blood pressure should be as low as possible, with, for adults, the upper level, when the heart has contracted, below 140mmHg and the lower level below 90mmHg, when the heart is relaxed between heartbeats. These thresholds should be much lower in people at increased risk of blood pressure complications, such as diabetics and people with kidney disease.
Provided people are otherwise healthy, the ideal blood pressure is now considered by international experts for the upper value to below 120, the lower below 80, recorded as ‘below 120/80mmHg’.
It is very important that patients help by following a healthy lifestyle. This is both helpful to prevent high blood pressure, and for patients with hypertension, to reduce its severity. People should aim for a healthy weight, using fresh foods as far as possible, keep salt intake low, and alcohol intake within healthy limits, be active and have regular good sleep.
This year it is timely the UK’s National Blood Pressure Week comes just after the launch of important new blood pressure guidelines prepared by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advised by experts from the British Hypertension Society (BHS).
The NICE guidelines contain new advice on blood pressure measurement, including involvement of patients in their own management, supported by home blood pressure readings.
It is of course very important that any blood pressure monitor, whether for clinical or home use, should be accurate. A helpful list of accurate devices is on the British Hypertension Society's website.’
If you have high blood pressure, you should make sure that your doctor knows about any over the counter tablets or herbal remedies you are taking, as these can interfere with the actions of blood pressure tablets.
There are now seven major types of blood pressure treatments. For best blood pressure control, prescribers need to the right drug options for the right kind of patient, taking into account, for example, age, ethnicity and potential risks in pregnancy. If single drugs are not sufficient to control blood pressure, the NICE guidelines provide advice on which drug combinations are best to use.

Useful websites:
British Hypertension Society – includes information on which blood pressure monitors are accurate
Blood Pressure Association – includes a list of venues for free blood pressure checks
NICE guidance on hypertension for patients and carers:


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