Katharine Jenner: High blood pressure silent killer

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If I told you that by making one change to your health, you could reduce your risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and premature death, would you make that change?

Blood pressure often goes under the radar, yet it is a major cause of all these conditions; high blood pressure is estimated to cause more than 20 per cent of heart attacks and 50 per cent of all strokes – and importantly, it is preventable.

Contrary to popular opinion, having high blood pressure is not obvious – we imagine a red nose perhaps, or throbbing veins in the forehead – yet it rarely has any symptoms, hence we call it the Silent Killer. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured and that’s why an important part of our work is to find people with high blood pressure, through our national “Know Your Numbers!” campaign.

High blood pressure affects more than 16 million people in the UK and it is estimated that only half of them are aware of this and are being treated. There are eight million people in the UK that are living with high blood pressure but not being treated for it. We are on a hunt to find them this year – please help us!

Know Your Numbers! is the UK’s biggest blood pressure testing and awareness campaign. Free blood pressure checks are provided in thousands of locations known as Pressure Stations. It encourages adults across the UK to know their blood pressure numbers and take the necessary action to reach and maintain a healthy blood pressure. Our vision is that everyone will know their blood pressure numbers, in the same way that they know their height or weight. The healthcare professional that takes your reading will explain the numbers to you, broadly:

• If your blood pressure reading is below 120/80 then it is ideal and healthy. Follow a healthy lifestyle to keep it at this level.

• If it is over 120/80 but under 140/90 it is normal, but it is a little higher than it should be. Make healthy changes to your lifestyle.

• If it is 140/90 or higher you may have high blood pressure (hypertension). See your doctor or nurse and take any medicines they may give you.

We know that a lot more can be done to improve the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure in Scotland. There are a number of things you can do to reduce your blood pressure such as losing weight, or exercising more, so why not start today and make that change.

To find your nearest blood pressure check visit www.bloodpressureuk.org/kyn/Home/Freebpchecks/Findfreecheck. For further information about Know Your Numbers! visit www.bloodpressureuk.org/kyn/Home.

• Katharine Jenner is chief executive at Blood Pressure UK.