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A-Z of blood pressure

 

When you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure you might come across some medical words. Find out what they mean.

 

Accelerated hypertension

Also known as malignant hypertension. This is a rare condition where your blood pressure rises very quickly and becomes extremely high, over 180/120mmHg. It usually needs emergency treatment in hospital to bring your blood pressure down over a number of days. Despite the name 'malignant hypertension', it has nothing to do with cancer.

ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors)

A type of medicine often used to treat high blood pressure. They work by blocking a hormone called angiotensin II which raises your blood pressure by making your blood vessels narrower and by making your body hold onto water. ACE inhibitors reduce these effects, lowering your blood pressure.

Adrenaline

A hormone that is released when you feel stressed or anxious and is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response. It makes your heart beat faster and your blood vessels contract, making them narrower and raising your blood pressure. It’s the reason your blood pressure goes up when you’re stressed.

Aldosterone

A hormone which is involved in the balance of salt, water and fluid in your body. It lowers the amount of sodium and water taken out of your blood by the kidneys, to be released in your urine. This means your body holds onto water, which raises your blood pressure.

Alpha-blockers

A type of medicine sometimes used to treat high blood pressure. It works by blocking the action of adrenaline, a hormone which makes your blood vessels contract. Alpha-blockers allow your blood vessels to relax and widen, lowering your blood pressure.

Alpha antagonists

Sometimes called centrally-acting drugs or central alpha antagonists. A type of medicine that is occasionally used to treat high blood pressure. They work by acting on the part of your brain that controls high blood pressure. They soften the force of your heart beat and block the nerve ­signals that tell your small blood vessels to contract. 

Ambulatory home blood pressure monitoring

Also called 24-hour ambulatory home blood pressure monitoring. This is a way of recording your blood pressure overs 24-hours.

You wear a cuff around your arm and a small blood pressure monitor around your waist as you go about your day. The monitor takes regular readings of your blood pressure to give a clear picture of what it’s really like throughout the day and night.

Your doctor might ask you to do ambulatory monitoring to diagnose high blood pressure. 

Aneroid sphygmomanometer

A sphygmomanometer is a device used to measure your blood pressure. An Aneroid sphygmomanometer is a manual device, as opposed to an automatic machine. You wear an inflatable cuff around your arm, and as it deflates, your doctor or nurse uses a gauge, which looks like a clock face, and a stethoscope to measure your blood pressure.

Read about getting your blood pressure checked.

Angina

Pain in the chest that can spread to your left arm, neck, jaw or back. Also known as myocardial ischaemia. It happens when your arteries become clogged up and the blood supply to the heart is reduced, so your heart can’t work as well as it should.

The pain usually lasts for a few minutes when you’re stressed or physically active and your heart has to work harder.

Read about how high blood pressure can affect the heart and arteries.

Angiogram

A type of X-ray that is used to look at the blood vessels. Normal x-rays don’t show the blood vessels, so a special die is injected into the blood stream so that the blood vessels show up on the scan.

Angiograms can show if your blood vessels have become narrowed, blocked or damaged. They can be used for different parts of the body, including the kidneys, heart and feet.

Angiotensin II

A hormone which raises your blood pressure, both by making the blood vessels contract so they’re narrower and the blood has less space to flow through, and by making your body hold onto water.

Blood pressure medicines called ACE inhibitors, ARBs and beta blockers all work by acting on angiotensin II.

Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)

A type of medicine often used to treat high blood pressure. They work by blocking a hormone called angiotensin II. Angiotensin II raises your blood pressure by making your arteries narrower and your body hold onto water. ARBs allow your arteries to relax and open up, which lowers your blood pressure.

Arteriosclerosis

This is the thickening and hardening of the walls of your arteries, and the damage is often caused by high blood pressure. It affects the small arteries which carry oxygen and nutrients to your cells. Over time, arteriosclerosis can lead to atherosclerosis, where the arteries become narrow and less flexible, raising your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Read more about how high blood pressure can affect your arteries and your heart.

Atherosclerosis

This is the build-up of fat (cholesterol) in the walls of the arteries. The fat forms fatty depositis in areas which have been damaged by high blood pressure. Over time the fatty deposits can harden to form plaques, making the arteries narrower, harder and less flexible, and less blood can pass through. This can lead to heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.

Read more about how high blood pressure can affect your arteries and your heart.

Beta-blockers

A type of medicine sometimes used to treat high blood pressure. They work by blocking hormones which raise your blood pressure, including adrenaline, noradrenaline, and angiotensin II. Beta blockers lower your heart rate and allow your blood vessels to relax and open up, lowering your blood pressure.

Blood pressure

Your blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels as it flows around your body. If this pressure is too high, this can lead to health problems including heart attacks and strokes

Blood pressure monitor

A machine used to measure your blood pressure. There are different types of monitor. They usually have an inflatable fabric cuff which goes around your upper arm, attached to a small machine via a plastic tube. The cuff inflates, and as it deflates your blood pressure numbers appear on the screen of the machine. You can buy monitors to measure your blood pressure at home.

Body mass index (BMI)

A measurement that can show if you are a healthy weight for your height. You can calculate your body mass index by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared. You can also use this BMI calculator.

Calcium-channel blocker (CCBs)

A type of medicine often used to treat high blood pressure. They work by blocking the effects of calcium on your artery walls – calcium makes the muscles tighten up, narrowing your arteries so less blood can pass through. CCBs allow your blood vessels to relax and open up, lowering your blood pressure.

Cardiovascular disease

The name for a group of diseases that affect your heart and blood vessels – ‘cardio’ refers to the heart and ‘vascular’ refers to the blood vessels. High blood pressure raises the risk of cardiovascular diseases, which include stroke, heart attack, heart failure and peripheral artery disease.

Learn about your blood pressure and other things can put you at risk of cardiovascular disease so you can take control of your health. 

Centrally-acting drugs (alpha antagonists)

A type of medicine that is occasionally used to treat high blood pressure. They work by acting on the part of your brain that controls high blood pressure. Centrally-acting drugs soften the force of your heart beat and block the nerve signals that tell your small blood vessels to contract.

Cholesterol

A fatty substance in your blood which is made by your liver from the foods you eat, it's essential for good health. There are different types of cholesterol, and too much of a type called LDL cholesterol (or ‘bad cholesterol’) can clog up your arteries, leading to heart disease and stroke.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD)

Also known as kidney disease or nephropathy. This is a set of problems where the kidneys aren’t working as well as they should. It can often be mild but can sometimes lead to kidney failure, heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure can cause kidney disease and kidney disease can raise your blood pressure.

 

Combination medicine or combination tablet

A tablet which contains two or more medications for high blood pressure. These are available for some combinations of blood pressure medicine but not all. They mean that you can take fewer tablets and save money on prescriptions.

Conn's syndrome

Also called primary hyperaldosteronism. It’s when your adrenal glands produce too much of a hormone called aldosterone. This can make your body hold onto salt and water, which can cause high blood pressure. 

Coronary heart disease

Also known as coronary artery disease. This is when the coronary arteries, which lead to the heart, become narrow due to atheroscelrosis. This reduces blood flow to the heart meaning the heart muscle can’t work as well as it used to. It can lead to heart failure or heart attacks in the future.

CT scan

A type of scan which is similar to an X-ray but more detailed, and gives a 3D image.

Dementia

Dementia is the name for a group of disorders of the brain which cause symptoms including loss of memory, difficulty thinking and concentrating, and problems communicating. It can happen when the brain is damaged by certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease. It can also happen when the blood vessels in and leading to the brain are damaged by uncontrolled high blood pressure, this type of dementia is known as vascular dementia

Diabetes

Diabetes is where your blood sugar levels are too high because your body isn’t making the hormone insulin or has become resistant to it – as insulin controls blood sugar levels. The most common type is type 2 diabetes. If untreated, diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke and other problems, and having high blood pressure as well raises your risk much more.

Diastolic blood pressure

When your blood pressure is measured, it’s written as two numbers, for example 120/80mmHg. The second number is your diastolic blood pressure. It is the lowest level your blood pressure falls to when your heart relaxes between beats. Your systolic blood pressure is the first number.

Read more about what the numbers mean.

Direct renin inhibitors

A type of medicine sometimes used to treat high blood pressure. Direct renin inhibitors work by blocking the effects of renin, a hormone that raises blood pressure.

Diuretics

A type of medicine often used to treat high blood pressure. Diuretics work by raising the amount of salt and water that is taken out of your blood by your kidneys, to be released in your urine. Getting rid of extra salt and water helps lower your blood pressure. The most commonly used diuretics for high blood pressure are called thiazide diuretics.

 

Echocardiogram

A type of ultrasound scan which uses sound waves to produce a moving image of your heart. Echocardiograms used to see how well your heart is working and if there are any signs of damage. For example, if the walls of the heart have become enlarged due to high blood pressure.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

A test that measures the rhythm of your heart and the electrical activity of your heart. Electrocardiograms are used to see if your heart is working properly and if there are any problems such as an irregular heart beat or coronary heart disease.

 

Enlarged heart

Also known as left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). This is when the left side of the heart – the side responsible for pumping blood around your body  becomes larger. This enlargement can happen over time if your heart has to work harder than it should, for example if you have untreated high blood pressure.

Erectile dysfunction

Problems getting or keeping an erection. Also known as impotence. It can be caused by high blood pressure, or by certain blood pressure medicines. Lowering your blood pressure can be all you need to improve your erections.

Read more about erectile dysfunction.

Essential hypertension

High blood pressure with no known single cause. Most people with high blood pressure have essential hypertension. Also see secondary hypertension.

Read more about high blood pressure.

Folate

Also known as folic acid. It is a nutrient found in some foods. There is evidence that suggests that folate may help reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure. This is particularly the case for young women.

Gestational hypertension

See pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Haemorrhage

This is where a blood vessel bursts, so the blood supply to part of the body is cut off. High blood pressure can put a strain on the small blood vessels at the back of your eye and in your brain. If untreated, the blood vessels can burst, or haemorrhage, causing either eye problems or a stroke.

Read more about stroke and how high blood pressure and affect your arteries.

Heart attack

Also known as a myocardial infarction or MI. A heart attack happens when an artery leading to the heart becomes blocked due to coronary heart disease, cutting off the blood supply. Part of the heart muscle becomes starved of oxygen and dies unless the blockage is quickly removed. Heart attacks are often felt as a pain in the chest and breathlessness, but some have no symptoms at all.

A heart attack is a medical emergency and needs treating straight away.

Read more about heart attacks and the signs to look out for.

Heart disease

A term which refers to a number of conditions affecting the heart. High blood pressure puts extra strain on your blood vessels and your heart. It can lead to atherosclerosis which leads to coronary heart disease and heart attacks, and other problems such as left ventricular hypertrophy. 

Heart failure

Heart failure is when the heart isn’t able to work as well it as used to. This can be caused by high blood pressure and the diseases related to it, such as a heart attack or left ventricular hypertrophy.

Hypertension

The medical name for high blood pressure. It’s when the force of your blood pushing against your artery walls is too high, putting an extra strain on your blood vessels and your heart. If untreated, this can cause health problems in the future. 

Hypotension

The medical name for low blood pressure. Your blood pressure can be naturally low and this often doesn’t cause any problems, but can sometimes cause dizziness and falls.

Infarct

An area of tissue that has died because it has been starved of blood due to a blood clot. For example, the scarring of heart muscle after a heart attack is known as an infarct.

Ischaemia

When the blood flow to part of the body is reduced or cut off because a blood vessel has become narrow or blocked. If the blood flow is completely cut off, this can cause an infarct, where the tissue dies. This is what happens in a heart attack, for example.

Isolated diastolic hypertension

Your diastolic blood pressure is the second number when you have your blood pressure measured, the lower of the two. If it’s over 90, but the first number is below 140, this is known as isolated diastolic hypertension because only the second number (diastolic) is higher than it should be. It’s mostly seen in younger people and is treated in the same way as normal high blood pressure.

Read more about what the numbers mean.

Isolated systolic hypertension

Your systolic blood pressure is the first number when you have your blood pressure measured, the higher of the two. If it’s raised above 140, but the second number stays below 90, this is known as isolated systolic hypertension, because only the first number (systolic) is higher than it should be. It is mostly seen in older people, and is treated in the same way as normal high blood pressure.

Read more about what the numbers mean.

Kidney disease

Also known as chronic kidney disease or nephropathy. Kidney disease is a set of problems where the kidneys aren’t working as well as they should. It can often be mild but can sometimes lead to kidney failure, heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure can cause kidney disease and kidney disease can raise your blood pressure.

Kidney failure

Kidney failure is the most advanced form of kidney disease, it’s where your kidneys lose their ability to remove fluid, salt and waste products from your blood, so they build up in your body.

Korotkoff sounds

These are the sounds that your doctor or nurse hears through their stethoscope when they’re taking your blood pressure. See aneroid sphygmomanometer.

Left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH)

This is when the left side of the heart – the side responsible for pumping blood around your body, becomes larger. This enlargement can happen over time if your heart has to work harder to pump blood round your body, for example if you have untreated high blood pressure. Read more about how high blood pressure can affect your heart.

Lipids

Lipids is another name for fats. The cholesterol in your blood is a type of lipid, and is packaged into lipoproteins. Lipoproteins include LDL cholesterol (sometimes called bad cholesterol) and HDL cholesterol (sometimes called good cholesterol). Like high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol in your blood can lead to heart problems.

Lipoproteins

Lipoproteins carry cholesterol around your body in your blood. They are made up of lipids, or fats, including cholesterol, and proteins. There are two main types of lipoprotein, low density lipoproteins (LDL), known as good cholesterol, and high density lipoproteins (HDL), known as bad cholesterol.

The balance of these two types of lipoprotein is an indicator of your risk of heart disease and stroke. The lower your LDL level and the higher your HDL, the lower your risk of heart problems.

Loop diuretics

A type of medicine that is occasionally used to treat high blood pressure, also called potassium-sparing diuretics. They act faster and remove more fluid than other diuretics. They are used to get rid of excess water from your body, and are usually used to treat heart failure.

Macular oedema

Swelling of the retina at the back of the eye. It can be caused by high blood pressure as it can damage the small blood vessels at the back of your eyes. Fluid can leak out of the blood vessels and collect in the retina. If it is not treated, it can affect your eyesight. An eye test can pick up on damage to the blood vessels. 

Malignant hypertension

Also known as accelerated hypertension. This is a rare condition where your blood pressure rises very quickly and becomes extremely high, over 180/120mmHg. It usually needs emergency treatment in hospital to bring your blood pressure down over a number of days. Despite the name, it has nothing to do with cancer. 

Mercury manometer

An instrument used for measuring blood pressure. It consists of a glass column filled with mercury which is attached to a cuff that goes around your arm. They’re not used anymore because they have been replaced by modern automatic or hand-held blood pressure monitors. 

mmHg

This is a symbol which stands for millimetres of mercury, the unit of measurement for blood pressure. If your reading is 120 over 80, for example, that means it’s 120 millimetres of mercury over 80 millimetres of mercury, or 120/80mmHg.

Monounsaturated fats

This type of fat helps to protect your heart health because it lowers the amount of bad (LDL) cholesterol in your blood and maintains the level of good (HDL) cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats are found in rapeseed, groundnut and olive oils, avocado and some nuts. See also saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats
Read more on fats and cholesterol and your blood pressure.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

This is a type of scan that uses a very strong magnetic field to produce detailed pictures of the inside of your body. The image is taken in a large tunnel-shaped scanner. MRI scans can be used to diagnose conditions and see if there is any damage to your organs.

Myocardial infarction (MI)

This is the medical term for a heart attack. A heart attack happens when an artery leading to the heart becomes blocked due to coronary heart disease, cutting off the blood supply. Part of the heart muscle becomes starved of oxygen and dies unless the blockage is quickly removed. Heart attacks are often felt as a pain in the chest and breathlessness, but some have no symptoms at all.

A heart attack is a medical emergency and needs treating straight away. 

Read more about the signs look out for, and when to call 999

Myocardial ischaemia

Pain in the chest that can spread to your left arm, neck, jaw or back. Also known as angina. It happens when your arteries become clogged up and the blood supply to the heart is reduced, so your heart can’t work as well as it should. The pain usually lasts for a few minutes when you’re stressed or physically active and your heart has to work harder. 

Read about how high blood pressure can affect the heart and arteries.

Nephropathy

Also known as kidney disease. This is a set of problems where the kidneys aren’t working as well as they should. It can often be mild but can sometimes lead to kidney failure, heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure can cause kidney disease and kidney disease can raise your blood pressure. 

Nocturnal dip in blood pressure

Normally your blood pressure will be highest first thing in the morning and will steadily fall throughout the day and night. This drop at night is known as the nocturnal dip.

Noradrenaline

A hormone which has similar effects to the hormone adrenaline.  It causes your blood vessels to contract, making them narrower and raising your blood pressure. 

NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)

Commonly-used medicines for pain relief and reducing inflammation, for example, ibuprofen. They might not be suitable for you if you have high blood pressure or if you’re taking medications for high blood pressure, so speak to your doctor of pharmacist before taking them.

Obesity

A term for being very overweight. It raises your blood pressure and puts you at risk of health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. A body mass index (BMI) of over 30 is considered obese.

Read how you can keep to a healthy weight.

Oedema

Oedema is the build-up of fluid in the body, it can cause swollen feet and ankles. It can be caused by medical conditions including heart failure and kidney disease, and can be a side effect of calcium channel blockers.

Ophthalmoscope

A device used by opticians to look inside the eye during an eye test. Looking at the blood vessels at the back of your eye can be a useful way to see whether high blood pressure is affecting your blood vessels throughout your body.

Orthostatic hypotension

Also known as postural hypotension. This is when changes in your posture cause your blood pressure to drop, for example, going from sitting or lying down to standing up. It can make you light-headed or dizzy, which will pass quickly, but can put you at risk of falls. It becomes more common with age, and can be caused by medications for high blood pressure.


Read more about postural hypertension and low blood pressure

Oscillometry

A technique that measures blood pressure by detecting the vibrations caused by blood flowing through your blood vessels. Almost all digital blood pressure monitors use this technique. 

Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

Peripheral artery disease (PAD), also known as peripheral vascular disease, is where one or more blood vessels leading to the legs and feet become narrow and hardened, reducing the blood flow. This can cause cold and painful legs and feet, making it harder to get around. PAD can be caused by high blood pressure.

Peripheral vascular disease

Also known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD). This is where one or more blood vessels leading to the legs and feet become narrow and hardened, reducing the blood flow. This can cause cold and painful legs and feet, making it harder to get around. PAD can be caused by high blood pressure.

Phaeochromocytoma

This is a type of tumour in the adrenal gland. The adrenal glands release the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline which affect your blood pressure, and the tumour makes them release the hormones in an uncontrolled way. It can cause very high blood pressure, or fast changes in blood pressure. It’s a rare condition and accounts for less than 1% of all cases of high blood pressure.

Polyunsaturated fats

This type of fat helps to protect your heart by lowering your levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol . There are two main types of polyunsaturated fat – omega 3 fats which can be found in oily fish, and omega 6 fats which can be found in some nuts and some oils, including rapeseed and sunflower oil.

Read more on fats, cholesterol and blood pressure.

Postural hypotension

Also known as orthostatic hypotension. This is when changes in your posture cause your blood pressure to drop, for example, going from sitting or lying down to standing up. It can make you light-headed or dizzy, which will pass quickly, but can put you at risk of falls. It becomes more common with age, and can be caused by medications for high blood pressure.

Read more about postural hypertension and low blood pressure.

Potassium

Potassium is a chemical that can help to lower blood pressure. Eating foods which are high in potassium, particularly fruit and vegetables, can help your body to get rid of excess salt and water, lowering your blood pressure.

Read more about healthy eating.

Potassium-sparing diuretics

Also called loop diuretics. A type of medicine that is occasionally used to treat high blood pressure. They act faster and remove more fluid than other diuretics. They are used to get rid of excess water from your body, and are usually used to treat heart failure.

Pre-diabetes

This is where your blood sugar levels are above the normal range because you are starting to become resistant to the hormone insulin. It’s the stage that comes before type 2 diabetes. It’s caused by an unhealthy lifestyle and being overweight, but can be reversed.

Read more about high blood pressure and diabetes.

Renin-angiotensin system

This is a hormone system that helps to control your blood pressure. The hormones renin and angiotensin make the blood vessels contract, becoming narrower and raising your blood pressure. Many of the medicines used to treat high blood pressure act on this hormone system.

Pre-eclampsia

High blood pressure that develops during pregnancy, along with protein in the urine. Women with pre-eclampsia are closely monitored in hospital so that treatment can be given if needed to prevent any complications.

Read more about high blood pressure and pregnancy.

Pregnancy induced hypertension

Also known as gestational hypertension. This is high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy after the first 20 weeks. Women with high blood pressure during pregnancy will have regular blood pressure checks so that treatment can be given if needed. Blood pressure often returns to normal after the baby is born.

Read more about high blood pressure and pregnancy.

Pre-hypertension

Also known as pre-high blood pressure or high-normal blood pressure. This is blood pressure which is higher than 120/80mmHg, but lower than 140/90mmHg – the cut-off point often used for diagnosing high blood pressure. It’s not high blood pressure, but if your blood pressure is in this range you could go on to develop high blood pressure. But there are steps you can take to lower it.

Read more about what the numbers mean.

Primary hyperaldosteronism

Also called Conn’s syndrome. It’s when your adrenal glands produce too much of a hormone called aldosterone. This can make your body hold onto salt and water, which can cause high blood pressure. 

Primary hypertension

Also known as essential hypertension. This is high blood pressure with no known single cause. Most people with high blood pressure have essential hypertension.

Also see secondary hypertension, where blood pressure is raised by a health problem.

 

Renal

This term refers to the kidneys and how they work. Renal disease means kidney disease, for example.

Renal angiogram

A type of X-ray that is used to look at the blood vessels in and leading to the kidneys to see how healthy they are.

Renal artery stenosis

A condition that can raise blood pressure. This is when one or both of the major blood vessels leading to the kidneys becomes narrowed, slowing the flow of blood. In response, the kidneys produce more renin, a hormone that raises blood pressure.

Read more about kidney disease.

Renin

A hormone that is produced by the kidneys and raises blood pressure. Renin stimulates the production of a hormone called angiotensin, which causes blood vessels to become narrower, raising blood pressure.

Retinopathy

Damage to a part of the eye called the retina, which can cause some loss of sight. It can be caused by high blood pressure, if it damages the small blood vessels that lead to the retina. It can be picked up with an eye test.

Sclerosis

The hardening of the blood vessels walls, as in atherosclerosis. This can raise your blood pressure because your blood vessels aren’t as flexible as they used to be and can’t open up as much.

Secondary hypertension

High blood pressure that’s caused by another health problem, for example, kidney disease or a hormone disorder. Treating the cause may lower your blood pressure back down to normal. A small proportion of people with high blood pressure have this type. Also see essential hypertension.

Sodium

The part of salt that raises your blood pressure. Salt is made of two chemicals, sodium and chloride.

Read more about salt and your blood pressure.

Sphygmomanometer

A device used to measure blood pressure. See aneroid sphygmomanometer and blood pressure monitor.

Statin

A type of medicine that’s used to lower cholesterol levels in the blood to lower the risk of heart disease.

Stenosis

Also known as a stricture. The term describes an abnormal narrowing of a blood vessel. This can be caused by high blood pressure. Read more about how high blood pressure can affect your arteries

Stroke

stroke is where the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off because a blood vessel has become blocked or ruptures. Some cells may be damaged or even die, as they’re not getting enough oxygen. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke, and most strokes are preventable.

Sympathetic nervous system

Part of the nervous system which controls things we don’t think about, including a role in controlling blood pressure. It tells the body to release the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline, which make the blood vessels contract to become narrower, raising your blood pressure.

Systolic blood pressure

When your blood pressure is measured it will be written as two numbers, for example, 120/80mmHg. The first number is your systolic reading. It is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats, pushing blood around your body. Your diastolic blood pressure is the second number.

Read more about what the numbers mean.

Thiazide diuretics

A type of medicine often used to treat high blood pressure. Read about diuretics.

Thrombosis

Thrombosis is the build-up of a blood clot on the inside of a blood vessel. The clot can eventually break away from the blood vessel wall and completely block a blood vessel. This can cause a stroke or heart attack if that blood vessel leads to the heart or brain.

TIA (transient ischaemic attack)

A temporary or mini stroke, where the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off for a short time. The symptoms of a TIA are similar to a stroke but usually last for less than 24 hours. A TIA is often a warning sign that you could have a stroke in the near future.

Triglycerides

These are a type of fat that exist in the blood. A high level of triglycerides raises your risk of heart disease. Triglyceride levels can be measured with a blood test, usually the same blood test that measures your cholesterol level.

Type 2 diabetes

This is the most common type of diabetes, it’s often linked to being overweight. Diabetes is when your body stops making the hormone insulin or stops responding to it, causing uncontrolled blood sugar levels. If untreated, diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke and other problems, and having high blood pressure at the same time raises your risk much more.

Ultrasound

Also known as a sonograph. This is a scan that uses sound waves to create a moving image of your organs. You may be asked to have an ultrasound scan of your kidneys, for example, to see how well they’re working.

Urea

A waste product which is made by the liver. It’s removed from your blood by your kidneys, to be released in your urine. High levels of urea in your blood can be a sign of kidney problems. Blood tests can be used to check your urea levels to see how well your kidneys are working.

Read more about kidney disease.

Urine tests

When you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may ask you for a urine sample. Urine tests can give a lot of information about your body and can be used to check for signs of diabetes or kidney problems.

Read more about further tests if you have high blood pressure.

Vascular

A term that refers to the blood vessels.

Vascular dementia

A form of dementia that is caused by problems with the blood supply to the brain – the word ‘vascular’ refers to the blood vessels. Vascular dementia can happen when the blood vessels in and leading to the brain are damaged by uncontrolled high blood pressure, or when the blood supply is cut off by a stroke or mini stroke.

 

Vasodilators

A type of medicine occasionally used to treat high blood pressure. Vasodilators work by relaxing the muscles in your blood vessel walls, allowing the blood vessels to widen, making it easier for blood to flow through.

Waist circumference

Along with your BMI, your waist circumference is a good measure of whether you’re overweight or obese. A waist circumference of 94cm (37in) or more in men, and 80cm (31.5in) in women is linked to a higher risk of health problems. Read more about keeping to a healthy weight

White coat effect

Also called white coat syndrome. This is when your blood pressure is raised due to the stress of being in clinic so your reading is higher than it would be if you measured it at home. Read more about white coat effect.

White coat hypertension

This is where your blood pressure readings at the doctor’s surgery are high enough to be diagnosed with high blood pressure, over 140/90mmHg, but your home blood pressure readings are lower than 140/90mmHg. Read more about white coat effect and white coat syndrome

 

 

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