Blood Pressure screening is a service available in our Pharmacy without prior appointment.
Why should you care about your Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure (also called hypertension) causes silent damage to the blood vessels and the heart. If untreated this damage progresses over time and may result in stroke or heart attack. High blood pressure also increases the risk of damage to the blood vessels in your kidneys and eyes.
What is Blood Pressure?
Everyone has blood pressure. It shows the amount of work that your heart has to do to pump blood around the body. Two numbers measure your level of blood pressure. The top number records blood pressure when the pressure is at its highest as your heart muscle squeezes out the blood from your heart – this is called systolic pressure. Then your heart relaxes, which allows the blood to flow back into your heart – this is called diastolic pressure. The normal level of blood pressure is usually about 120 (systolic) over 80 (diastolic). This would be recorded as 120/80. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to get it measured. Most people with high blood pressure will feel fine and not notice any symptoms.
What does your result mean?
To understand what your blood pressure result means for you, it important to understand that blood pressure is one of a number of factors which affect your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Your blood pressure should always be viewed in combination with your other risk factors. Other important risk factors include:
Family history of heart disease
Do you need to see a Doctor?
Based on your blood pressure result, you may be recommended to visit a Doctor within a specific time. General referral guidelines are designed for patients with no symptoms or underlying conditions. If you are suffering from symptoms such as dizziness, blurred vision, palpitations or shortness of breath you should seek immediate evaluation by your GP. Remember that high blood pressure is just one risk factor for heart disease and stroke. If you consider yourself to be high risk you should seek your GP’s advice. If you are currently taking prescribed medication to treat high blood pressure, do not discontinue or change the dosage of these medicines based on the results until advice has been given by your Doctor.
What if you have high Blood Pressure?
How your Doctor will choose to manage your high blood pressure will depend on how high your blood pressure is, as well as what other risk factors you may have. Regardless of whether the Doctor prescribes medication for you or not, there are a number of important lifestyle changes you can make:
If you smoke, stop smoking
Patients with high blood pressure who smoke are 3-4 times more likely to have a heart attack compared to non-smokers. You can get advice on quitting from your Pharmacist, family Doctor, local HSE office or you can phone the National Smokers Quitline at 1850 201 203.
Be a healthy weight
Keep your weight at a level that is right for your height and build. Even losing a small amount of excess weight, say 10%, can help lower your blood pressure. Reducing your weight will also reduce your chances of developing diabetes which is another major risk factor for heart disease.
Be more physically active
Long-term regular physical activity can lower your blood pressure and help to control your weight. Physical activity is also a great way to reduce stress and help you feel good. If you have very high blood pressure, consult your doctor before you start doing any form of activity.
Improve your diet and reduce your salt intake
Salt will increase your blood pressure. Reduce the amount of salt you add to your food at the table and eat less processed foods. Include more fresh vegetables, fruit and wholegrain cereals in your diet. Eating less fat and fatty foods will also help to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level – another important way to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Drink less alcohol
Drinking large amounts of alcohol can increase blood pressure and may damage the liver and heart. If you do drink, spread your drinking over the week, keep some days alcohol-free. The low risk weekly guidelines for adults are:
FOR MEN: Up to 17 standard drinks a week
FOR WOMEN: Up to 11 standard drinks a week
1 STANDARD DRINK equals one half pint of beer, stout or lager OR one small glass of wine OR one glass of spirits
Stress will cause a short-term rise in your blood pressure. Learning to relax and cope with stress can benefit you in many ways and may help to keep your blood pressure levels low.
What about medication?
If you have been prescribed medicine for high blood pressure, you will usually have to take it long-term. The good news is that your risk of a stroke or heart attack will be greatly reduced.
Don’t be concerned if you are ever prescribed more than one tablet to control your blood pressure. This is very common. Each tablet is important, as each works slightly differently. Using a combination of tablets can achieve much better blood pressure control & with less side-effects than using a single tablet. It’s essential that you take your blood pressure medication every day, and as prescribed, to ensure you keep your blood pressure under control.