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‘Know your numbers’ in blood pressure week

Experts at Warwick Medical School are piling on the pressure for us to be more aware of how to keep our blood pressure healthy. To tie in with National Blood Pressure Week (12-18 September), Professor Donald Singer, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics at Warwick Medical School is urging everyone to get their blood pressure checked as it affects so many aspects of our health.

But for many, the numbers that doctors quote don't mean anything; so what do they mean and what would be considered high? Professor Singer explained that the two numbers used both predict risk and show the different pressures when the heart has contracted and when the heart is relaxed between heartbeats.

"High blood pressure for adults would be readings of above 140mmHg, when the heart has contracted, or a reading when the heart is relaxed of more than 90mmHg. A reading of 140/90mmHg is generally considered the level used to identify high blood pressure whatever your adult age, compared to what health experts say is an 'ideal' healthy reading of 120/80mmHg or below."

Professor Singer added: "High blood pressure is both preventable and treatable but if it is not managed you seriously increase your risk of serious heart diseases and strokes. Even at the age of 20, around 5% of people may already have high blood pressure, increasing to around 1 in 2 people by the time we reach 70."

He went on to urge people to follow a healthy lifestyle: "This is both helpful to prevent high blood pressure, and for patients with hypertension, to reduce its severity. People should aim for a healthy weight, using fresh foods as far as possible, keep salt intake low, and alcohol intake within healthy limits, be active and have regular, good sleep.”

Francesco Cappuccio, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine & Epidemiology at Warwick Medical School and Director of the European Centre of Excellence in Hypertension and Cardio-Metabolic Research, also stressed the importance of looking after our blood pressure:

"Our Centre of Excellence for Hypertension in Coventry has been for years at the forefront of the implementation of best practice for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of hypertension and associated complications. Blood pressure impacts on so many other conditions such as diabetes, stroke risk, kidney problems – it really is one of the key indicators for our overall health so we should all be more aware of its importance.

"So it is therefore an excellent initiative of the British Hypertension Society and the Blood Pressure Association to arrange an annual week as a focus to remind the public and health professionals about risks of high blood pressure, how to prevent it, measure it accurately and learn more about lifestyle choices and drugs to help people with high blood pressure."

It is also timely as it comes just after the launch of important new blood pressure guidelines prepared by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advised by experts from the British Hypertension Society (BHS). The NICE guidelines contain new advice on blood pressure measurement, including involvement of patients in their own management, supported by home blood pressure readings.

With more than 1,500 venues offering free blood pressure checks during National Blood Pressure Week (12-18 September) there's no excuse not to find out what your 'magic numbers' are and ensure that you stay healthy.

Useful websites:
British Hypertension Society - includes information on how to choose accurate blood pressure monitors 
Blood Pressure Association - includes a list of venues for free blood pressure checks 
NICE guidance on hypertension for patients and carers: 

Notes to Editors:
If you would like to interview Professor Singer or Professor Cappuccio, or for further information, contact Kate Cox, Communications Manager on +44 (0)2476 150483/574255, m: +44 (0)7920 531221 or .