HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE,
also known as hypertension, affects about 25 per cent of people worldwide and is the number one risk factor for mortality. By identifying and treating it, we can decrease the risk of conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. Unfortunately, hypertension is often undiagnosed or untreated. Blood pressure is essentially the pressure of the blood in your arteries. It is expressed as 120/80 or 145/95. The top number is the systolic pressure (the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts) and the bottom number is the diastolic pressure (the pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxing and refilling with blood). Both are important and, in general, anything over 140/90 is considered too high. Often, no cause for hypertension can be found. However, in some cases there may be a kidney problem, hormonal condition or a breathing problem such as sleep apnoea. Certain medications can exacerbate the problem. Lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking, losing weight, exercising regularly and cutting back on salt and alcohol, can result in significant lowering of blood pressure. Depending on the severity of the hypertension, medication may be required. There are a range of anti-hypertensives available and your doctor will tailor a regime to suit you. Make sure your doctor monitors your blood pressure and any other risk factors for cardiovascular disease that you may have.