Finding out you have high blood pressure can be a shock, especially if you feel perfectly fit and well, but we are here to help.
Here you can find out what it means and what happens next, and where you can find helpful information. You can also see our range of support services we have to help you understand high blood pressure and get it under control.
What does it mean if your blood pressure is ‘high’?
If your doctor tells you that you have high blood pressure (hypertension), then your blood pressure has been found to be 140/90mmHg or more. This is the cut-off point usually used for diagnosing high blood pressure.
If your blood pressure is high, that means there is extra stress on your blood vessels, and your heart has to work harder to push blood around your body. If it’s not brought under control, this can damage the blood vessels and restrict the blood flow throughout your body, causing damage to your heart, kidneys and brain. Read more about why high blood pressure is a problem.
Getting a diagnosis of high blood pressure
A one-off high reading doesn’t necessarily mean you have high blood pressure, as various things can raise your blood pressure throughout the day. Even the stress of having a blood pressure check can raise it.
You might have it checked more than once to make sure it wasn’t a one-off high reading, and you might be asked to measure it yourself at home. This is to check if your blood pressure stays high throughout the day or for a number of weeks. Read more about further health tests.
You may also be diagnosed with high blood pressure if just one of the numbers is higher than it should be. Read more about what the numbers mean.
Why do I have high blood pressure?
There are a number of reasons why your blood pressure has become raised. Your lifestyle can make a big difference, that is, how fit and active you are, what you eat and drink, and whether you smoke. A number of other things you can’t change can also play a role, such as your age.
There may be no one particular cause of your high blood pressure, it could be due to a combination of things. When high blood pressure with no known single cause occurs, this is called essential hypertension. Most people have this type. Read more about the causes.
High blood pressure can also be caused by another health problem, such as a kidney or hormone problem. This is known as secondary hypertension.
Read more about the causes.
What if I have high blood pressure?
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, the next step is to start getting it under control. Your doctor might talk to you about a target blood pressure level, for example under 140/90mmHg. You can start taking steps to take control of your blood pressure straight away.
- Lifestyle changes. There are changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle which can start to bring your blood pressure down straight away.
- Medications. Your doctor might also talk to you about medications to lower your blood pressure. This will depend on how high your blood pressure numbers are and any other health problems you have, as well as medications you’re taking. Read more about medications and whether they could be right for you.
- Home monitoring. You might find it helpful to use a home blood pressure monitor to keep an eye on your numbers at home. They can help you see if any lifestyle changes or medications are working, and some people find they help them feel more in control. Read more about home monitoring.
Your doctor might also do some further tests such as blood and urine tests to see if you have any health problems which could be causing your high blood pressure, such as kidney or hormone problems. If there is a particular cause, treating it could bring your blood pressure back down to normal. The tests will also help them see if your raised blood pressure has caused any damage to your body that needs treating.
Who can help lower my blood pressure?
You might see a number of health professionals who can find out what’s going on and help you get your blood pressure under control. Who you see will depend on what your blood pressure readings are, how you get on with any medications and changes to your lifestyle, and any other health problems you have. As well as your GP or practice nurse, it can help to be in touch with your pharmacist, and you might see a dietitian, optician, and specialists in high blood pressure.
Read more about who can help.
What happens once my blood pressure is under control?
Once you have your blood pressure under control, your risk of health problems in the future is much lower. Keeping it under control throughout your life will stop any damage to your blood vessels and your heart, and could even reverse any damage that may have been done all ready.
The best ways to keep your blood pressure in check in the long term are the same as those to lower it – with a healthy lifestyle, taking any medications you need, and monitoring your blood pressure at home if you find it helpful.
If you take medications, it’s likely that you will need to keep taking them in the long term, but with lifestyle changes it’s possible to lower the amount of medicines you need and even stop taking them altogether.
Keep on taking your medications as prescribed, even if your blood pressure is brought down to a healthy level, because if you stop it will go back up again.
Dealing with a diagnosis of high blood pressure
Finding out you have high blood pressure can be a shock, and people respond in different ways. You might feel worried or stressed about what it means for the future, and how it could affect your life and those around you. On the other hand, you might see it as a lucky escape, as now that you know you have high blood pressure, you can do something about it.
It’s important that you don’t bury your head in the sand and ignore it. For most people, high blood pressure can be brought under control, often quite easily, and doesn’t need to have a negative impact on your life.
Read the stories of people who have been where you are now. Many explain how the medications and lifestyle changes were nowhere near as bad as they were expecting, and even made them feel much better.
It can be hard to tell others about health problems, but telling your family and friends that you have high blood pressure can mean that you get the support and encouragement you need to make any changes.
It can also help just to talk about anything that’s on your mind. Your doctor or nurse may be able to talk you through anything you’re worried about and put your mind at rest. You can also call our helpline to speak to a specialist nurse, email email@example.com or call 020 7882 6218.
Living with high blood pressure
High blood pressure doesn’t need to have a negative impact on your life. There’s often no need to tell your employer, you can still travel and have a social life, and making positive changes such as getting active can make you feel good too. Some people even find their diagnosis changes their lives for the better.
Read more about practical matters, including work, travel and your social life.