Tackling High Blood Pressure, the ‘Silent Killer’

Public Health England’s updated action plan calls for the continued support from the whole of the ‘health and social care system to contribute to the reduction of high blood pressure in England, with an overarching aim of improving the early detection and prevention of Cardio Vascular Disease.

More than one in four adults in the UK are unaware that they have high blood pressure. Blood pressure is a measure of the force that your heart uses to pump blood around your body and if that pressure is too high it can put strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs. High blood pressure or hypertension often called the ‘silent killer’, rarely causes noticeable symptoms but if left untreated, can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and many over cardiovascular conditions. It can also increase the risk of chronic kidney disease, peripheral arterial disease, and vascular dementia.

Credit: Public Health England

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is recorded as 2 numbers usually written one above the other. The top number is called the systolic blood pressure – the highest pressure in blood vessels and happens when the heart contracts, or beats. The bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure – the lowest pressure in blood vessels in between heartbeats when the heart muscle relaxes. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) defines high blood pressure as a clinic blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher.

Although there are risk factors that you cannot change, such as age and genetics, there are ways you can reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, some examples are:

  • Reduce your salt intake. Excess dietary salt is one of the most important modifiable risk factors for high blood pressure, as a high salt diet disrupts the natural sodium balance in the body, causing fluid retention which in turn increases the pressure exerted by the blood against blood vessel walls. The recommended guideline for salt consumption for adults and children over 11 should be no more than 6 grams per day.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight, there is a strong and direct relationship between excess weight and high blood pressure.
  • Keep your alcohol consumption within the national guidelines. It has been shown that blood pressure rises, in some cases to dangerous levels, when large amounts of alcohol is consumed. Governmental guidelines recommend that both men and women should not drink regularly more than 14 units of alcohol per week.
  • Keeping Active – research shows that people in the UK are around 20% less active now than in the 1960’s. National guidelines suggest adults aged 19 to 64 should aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity, in bouts of 10 minutes or more, each week.
  • Reducing anxiety and stress. Feelings of anxiety and stress can increase hormones like adrenaline and cortisol which impact on blood pressure and heart rate.

Credit: Public Health England Blog

It is recommended that all adults over 40 years of age have their blood pressure tested at least every five years so any potential problems can be detected early. If you are unable to get to your GP surgery, some pharmacies offer a service free of charge. If you are aged between 40-74 and live in the UK a blood pressure check is included in

the ‘NHS Health Check’ you can find details of this online at: nhs.co.uk.

If you have any concerns or would like further information on blood pressure testing or any of the subjects covered in this article please do not hesitate to contact one of your ‘Nurse Case Managers’ either by email at: cm@cignpost.com or telephone us on 020 3908 3959, we are here to help.


References: Tackling High Blood Pressure, the ‘Silent Killer’

Ettehad et al. (2016) Blood pressure lowering for prevention of cardiovascular disease and death: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Available at:  https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(15)01225-8.pdf

PHE (2017) Health matters: combating high blood pressure Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-matters-combating-high-blood-pressure/health-matters-combating-high-blood-pressure (Accessed: 27 April 2018)

PHE (2018) Tackling high blood pressure: an update. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/672554/Tackling_high_blood_pressure_an_update.pdf (Accessed 27 April 2018)

DOH (2016) Alcohol Guidelines Review – Report from the Guidelines development group to the UK Chief Medical Officers Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/545739/GDG_report-Jan2016.pdf (Accessed 27 April 2018)

BHF (no date) High Blood Pressure. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/risk-factors/high-blood-pressure Accessed 27 April 2018

NHS Choices (2016) High blood pressure (hypertension) Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/ (Accessed 27 April)