Around 30 to 40% of people in Ireland have high blood pressure, and many people don’t realise that their blood pressure is higher than it should be.

High blood pressure increases your risk of developing heart disease as well as having a heart attack or stroke. The higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has any noticeable symptoms. Because of this, it is sometimes called the ‘silent killer’.

Often there is no definite reason for someone to have high blood pressure, however as you get older, your chances of having high blood pressure increase. You may also be at risk of having high blood pressure if you:

  • Are overweight
  • Don’t do enough exercise
  • Don’t eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Eat too much salt
  • Drink too much caffeine
  • Drink too much alcohol
  • Smoke
  • Have a relative with high blood pressure

The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured. If you haven’t had your blood pressure checked for a while or don’t know what your blood pressure is, you can have it checked at your local pharmacy. Having your blood pressure checked usually takes less than five minutes and your pharmacist will be happy to answer any questions or concerns you have.

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is recorded as two figures. A blood pressure reading below 130/80mmHg is considered to be normal. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is diagnosed when your blood pressure is found to be higher than it should be on several separate occasions. If your blood pressure is consistently high on each occasion, your pharmacist may refer to you your GP.

‘If my blood pressure is high, does this mean that I am going to have a heart attack or a stroke?’

Not necessarily, but it does mean you are at greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke. or stroke. There are lots of things you can do to prevent and reduce high blood pressure, including making lifestyle changes such as:

  • Being a healthy weight
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Reducing the amount of salt in your diet
  • Cutting down on caffeine
  • Watching how much alcohol you drink
  • If you smoke, stopping smoking.

If your blood pressure is high, it will need to be closely monitored until it is controlled and within the normal range. As well as making lifestyle changes, your GP may prescribe medication to reduce your blood pressure.

You can find out more information about keeping your heart healthy by speaking to your local pharmacist.