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The following frequently asked questions and answers have been put together to help answer some of the most common media queries from journalists. Click on an individual question or scroll down to view all. There is also further information in

Please feel free to contact the Blood Pressure UK Press Office if you have any other queries on 020 7882 6255.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood on the walls of the arteries as it is pumped from the heart around the body.

Blood pressure is not usually something that you feel or notice. The only way to know what your blood pressure is, is to have it measured.

If blood pressure is too high over a period of time, it increases risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage and eye problems.

What's the difference between hypertension and hypotension?

Hypertension: refers to the condition of high blood pressure.

Hypotension: refers to abnormally low blood pressure.

Why is high blood pressure dangerous?

High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and dementia.

This means that if you have high blood pressure you are at greater risk of developing these conditions than someone who does not have high blood pressure.

If your blood pressure is high it causes strain on the vessels carrying blood around your body. This strain can cause vessels to become clogged up or to weaken, and this in turn can lead to narrow blood vessels and clots, which can cause damage to the heart or brain.

More rarely, it can lead to the blood vessels bursting. Having high blood pressure can also cause heart failure. Heart failure is when your heart cannot pump blood around the body as well as it should, and this can cause you to become short of breath and can cause your ankles to swell.

High blood pressure can cause kidney failure, some eye conditions, and there is some research that shows that by lowering blood pressure you may be able to prevent some kinds of dementia.

Can anyone get high blood pressure?

High blood pressure can affect anyone. However there are some groups of people who are more likely to have it.

Many of the factors that increase your risk of developing high blood pressure can be reduced by changing your lifestyle. 

  • If you have a family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack you are more likely to have high blood pressure yourself
  • If you are African-Caribbean then you are more likely to have high blood pressure than the rest of the population in the United Kingdom; you may be more sensitive to salt in your diet and more likely to have a stroke
  • If you are South Asian then you are more likely to have diabetes or a heart attack which means that it is important for you to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels well controlled. The reasons for this are not fully understood
  • Some other conditions are also linked to high blood pressure, such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease. If you have any of these conditions then it is even more important that your blood pressure is identified and well controlled
  • Your lifestyle can also affect your blood pressure. If you are overweight, eat too much salt and not enough fruits and vegetables, are physically inactive and drink too much alcohol you are more likely to have high blood pressure
  • Blood pressure also goes up as we get older. More than half of all people over the age of 75 have high blood pressure

What are the symptoms?

High blood pressure is often referred to as the "silent killer" because it rarely has any symptoms and the first many people know about it is when they suffer a stroke or heart attack. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured.

How often should people get their blood pressure checked?

The Blood Pressure Association recommends all adults should have a blood pressure check at least once a year.

If your blood pressure is above 'optimal' (i.e. more than 120/80mmHg) or you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you should have it checked more often. If you have high blood pressure, how often you need to have it measured will depend on what treatment you are having.

There are many places where you can have a free, quick and painless blood pressure check, including:

  •  GP surgery/health centre
  •  workplace (occupational health)
  •  many high street pharmacies
  •  many supermarket pharmacies
  •  some gyms/fitness centres.

Free blood pressure checks are also available at more than 2,500 venues nationwide during the BPA's Know your Numbers! Week, which takes place in the second week of September each year.

Visit http://www.bloodpressureuk.org/kyn to find out more

How many people have high blood pressure?

  • Around one in three adults (16 million) have high blood pressure
  • 31% of men and 28% of women in England have high blood pressure
  • Around 18 per cent of (adult) men and 13 per cent of (adult) women have high blood pressure and are not receiving treatment (medication) for it
  • Prevelance of high blood pressure increases substanially with age for men and women:
    Men - high blood pressure prevelance
    16 per cent - aged 25-34
    16 per cent - aged 35-44
    34 per cent - aged 45-54
    47 per cent - aged 55-64
    More than 60 per cent - over the age of 65
    Women - high blood pressure prevelance
    3 per cent - aged 25-34
    10 per cent - aged 35-44
    26 per cent - aged 45-54
    40 per cent - aged 55-64
    More than 60 per cent - over the age of 65

Source: Health Survey for England, 2006

The Blood Pressure Association has a range of case studies to help with all types of enquiries

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Find out the latest statistics, facts and figures on high blood pressure

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