How a simple blood pressure test could save your life

To mark World Hypertension Day on 17th May, we’re talking about the blood pressure test, available at our practice. Here, your GP discusses the ins and outs of hypertension, and urges everyone to take the test which could potentially save you from the silent killer.

Getting to the heart of the problem

A blood pressure test quite simply measures the pressure inside your arteries as your heart pumps blood. Of course, your blood pressure changes continually depending on a whole range of things such as how active you are, your diet, temperature, emotional state, or current medication, for example.

However, when resting, we would expect to see your blood pressure sit within a certain range. Figures outside this range can be an indication of a health issue.

Putting it to the test

A blood pressure test takes just minutes to complete. First, you’ll be asked a few questions about your medical history, general health, and lifestyle. Rest assured, we’ll ensure you’re fully comfortable and relaxed before commencing the test.

Second, we’ll ask you to rest one arm on a table, and we’ll place a fabric cuff around your upper arm. We’ll then inflate the cuff using a small hand-held pump, and as the cuff deflates, a machine will read your blood pressure and display the numbers on a screen.

The whole process takes just a minute and the results will be provided immediately. You’ll be given plenty of time to ask questions and, depending on your results, you’ll be carefully guided through the next steps, should any further action be required.

Figuratively speaking

A healthy blood pressure reading should be around 120/80mmHg. Anything significantly above or below that level will need to be investigated. For instance, a figure of 140/90 or higher would suggest high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. On the other hand, a figure of 90/60 or lower would suggest low blood pressure, also known as hypotension.

Rising tension

High blood pressure is thought to affect around 1 in 3 adults, leaving them more at risk of heart problems, strokes, kidney disease, and damage to other vital organs.

Certain groups are classed as being more at risk than others. They include those who:

  • Are age 60+
  • Have a family history of high blood pressure or heart disease
  • Are overweight
  • Don’t exercise regularly
  • Are of Asian or African-Caribbean descent
  • Have a diet high in salt
  • Have a diet low in fruit and vegetables
  • Drink more than 2-3 units of alcohol a day for women, or 3-4 units for men

However, it must be emphasised that all adults are at risk of high blood pressure and it is therefore vitally important that we all take steps to reduce our risk where possible.

Time to take the test

Many sufferers of high blood pressure don’t experience any symptoms, hence the reason hypertension is often referred to as ‘the silent killer’. Therefore, a blood pressure test is the only way to detect the problem.

We recommend those classed as high-risk have a blood pressure test every year. For everyone else aged over 40, we recommend you have a blood pressure test every 5 years.

A 5-minute test can keep you safe.  Book an appointment with us.

Check in with friends on World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day falls on 10th October every year and serves as an important reminder of the need to reflect on our wellbeing. This year, it is more important than ever as the pandemic continues to affect our lives in so many ways. And so we are encouraging everyone to check in on their friends, family, neighbours, and colleagues. Read on to discover some of the most common mental health issues arising from the covid crisis and how you can offer support to friends who may need it most.

Loneliness

Cut off from the world during lockdown, shielding, or self-isolation – loneliness has had a huge effect on many people. It is also continuing to affect those missing out on important milestones or precious time with loved ones, and remote workers craving social interaction with colleagues in the office.

If sustained for a long period, chronic loneliness can have a huge impact on an individual’s mental health. They may feel overwhelmingly isolated, they may lose confidence in themselves, and they may find themselves unable to connect with people on an intimate level. The idea of socialising after a prolonged period of loneliness may cause the individual anxiety, triggering the stress hormone, cortisol, and leaving the person feeling exhausted.

It is therefore vital to check in regularly with friends and let them know they are not alone – if not in person, then by text, phone call, or video. Help keep their mind active by suggesting new hobbies and pastimes, or encourage them to volunteer or accompany them to a group to meet new people.

Anxiety

So much about life in the pandemic has been unsettled, so it is only natural that most people have felt anxiety to a certain extent over the past year. Fears surrounding the effects of covid, nervousness about another wave – it is all completely understandable.

However, if left unmanaged, prolonged anxiety can lead to health issues, such as sleep disruption, digestive problems, lowered immune system, and it could even increase the risk of heart disease.

If you notice that anxiety is starting to overwhelm a friend, it is important that they talk to someone. Make sure they know you are always available, should they ever feel a need to talk through a problem. If you think they are struggling to concentrate or deal with everyday tasks, or it is escalating into panic attacks, it is essential that they speak to a health professional who will be able to treat the condition through therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.

Stress

Most people would agree that life is a juggle, but for many people, the past year has taken multi-tasking to the next level! Working from home whilst home-schooling the children has left many feeling burnt out. Add to the mix financial worries and doubts over job security, and it’s easy to see how stress can take over someone’s life.

Tension headaches, difficulty sleeping and concentrating are tell-tale signs that a friend may be under stress. If left untreated, prolonged stress can lead to a wide range of health issues including depression, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

Look out for the signs and offer practical help if you can to help lighten the load. Offer to babysit their children for a couple of hours, recommend a yoga class, or encourage them to take a sick day to focus on getting their mental health back on track.

It’s good to talk

If you think someone you know is suffering with their mental health, the key thing is to let them know that they can talk openly with you. Listen without judgement and support them when needed. Should they need to discuss anything with a medical professional, appointments are available with our GP´s.