This year, we’re all looking forward to spending some much needed time with loved ones, where permitted of course! The festive season is well known for being a period of over indulging and this can have a negative impact on your heart health. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to make sure you’re maintaining your health and wellbeing. Here we’re taking a look at tips to help you keep your blood pressure under control whilst still enjoying the Christmas festivities.
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the measurement of the pressure of the blood pressing against the walls of your arteries as it travels away from the heart. It’s one of the 4 vital signs which are monitored by medical professionals (including body temperature, pulse rate and respiratory rate) and there can be serious implications if it’s either too high (hypertension) or too low (hypotension). In this article we’ll explore blood pressure and how it can be managed.
How is blood pressure measured?
Blood pressure is recorded using two numbers: ”systolic” blood pressure, which is the highest pressure that’s reached within the arteries when the heart beats, and ”diastolic” blood pressure, which is the lowest pressure in the arteries, when the heart rests between beats. Both are measured in units of “mmHg”, which means “millimetres of mercury”. These two measurements are usually written together, in the form “120/80mmHg”, which would represent a systolic pressure of 120, and a diastolic pressure of 80; and this would usually be verbally communicated as “120 over 80”. Ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, but your doctor may give you a personalised blood pressure target that’s different, depending on your age and health status.
What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?
If you have a reading of 140/90mmHg or above (“140 over 90”), this is considered to be high blood pressure. However if you’re 80 or older, then it’s considered to be high if it’s over 150/90mmHg.
What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?
The symptoms of high blood pressure are rarely noticeable, which means you could be living with it without knowing. The only way to tell if you have high blood pressure is by having it measured.
When your blood pressure is high, it puts an extra strain in your heart, blood vessels, and other organs in your body. Left untreated, it can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, heart failure, strokes, kidney disease, aortic aneurysms, and more.
What causes high blood pressure?
The causes of high blood pressure are not always clear, but there are several factors that increase the risk, including:
- Not exercising enough
- Drinking too much alcohol, coffee or other caffeine-based drinks
- Eating too much salt and too few fruits and vegetables
- Not getting enough sleep or having poor quality sleep
- Having a close relative with high blood pressure
- Being aged over 65
- Being of black African or black Caribbean descent
How can Christmas cause high blood pressure?
An over indulgent Christmas has also been proven to have an effect on blood cholesterol. Last year a study showed cholesterol levels were 20% higher after the festive period. This is due to the high level of fatty foods being consumed, combined with cold and wet weather often putting people off exercising.
How is high blood pressure treated?
High blood pressure can usually be successfully managed, although the recommended treatment may vary from person to person. Correcting a raised blood pressure reduces the risk of developing a more serious health condition later.
By making changes to your lifestyle, it may be possible to reach and maintain a normal blood pressure. Changes you could make include:
- Stopping smoking
- Exercising regularly – schedule in a variety of walks with your family and friends where possible.
- Cutting back on alcohol
- Drinking fewer caffeinated drinks
- Losing weight, if you’re overweight
How can I keep my high blood pressure under control over the Christmas period?
While over the festive season you’re likely to eat and drink more, try to start the day with a good meal, such as oats. They’re filling and full of fibre, and you could add some cinnamon for a Christmas touch.
You could also try low or non-alcoholic drinks this Christmas. There’s a range of alcohol-free beers, wines and spirits which don’t have the negative effects. Not only will you wake up hangover free, but alcohol raises the levels of triglycerides in your blood and if they become too high they can cause a build up of fat in your liver. This means your liver has to work harder and can’t remove cholesterol from your blood causing your cholesterol levels to rise. That, in turn, can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Take a look at some of the best non-alcoholic beverages here.
There are also medicines which can be prescribed to help keep your blood pressure under control. Many people will need to take a combination of different medicines. The medicines you are prescribed may vary depending on age and ethnicity.
- If you’re under 55 years old you’ll usually be offered or an angiotensin-2 receptor blocker (ARB), or an ACE inhibitor.
- If you’re 55 years old or older, or of African or Carribean origin, then you’ll usually be offered a medicine called a calcium channel blocker.
It’s important to take any medicines exactly as you have agreed with your doctor. When you’re taking a medicine to treat high blood pressure, you will probably not feel any different – but this doesn’t mean it’s not working or that it’s not important for you to take it every day. It’s lowering your risk of worsening health in the future.
How to get your high blood pressure medicine from Pharmacy2U
If you receive treatment for high blood pressure, then Pharmacy2U can help. Our UK-based team of pharmacists are on hand for help and advice, and you can stay safe by avoiding unnecessary trips and queues to the GP or pharmacist, by having your medication delivered to your door. Our easy service lets you order from anywhere and registration only takes a few minutes.
For more information and support about high and low blood pressure, talk to your GP or pharmacist; you may also find these links helpful.