High blood pressure: Warning signs and how to prevent or control it

Jul 14, 2021
Monitoring your blood pressure could save your life and prevent the development of chronic illnesses. Source: Getty

More than 4.7 million Australians are living with high blood pressure, many unknowingly, with older Australians increasingly developing the condition. As we age, the rise in blood pressure is mostly connected with structural changes in the arteries, causing rigidness and stiffness.

The symptoms of high blood pressure (or hypertension) can easily go undetected, making diagnosis and treatment even harder. Having unmanaged blood pressure can cause some significant health issues to develop, including heart disease, kidney failure and strokes – a condition that affected one Aussie every 19 minutes in 2020.

To help you stay on top of your blood pressure reading, here are some of the early warning signs to watch out for, and ways to prevent  it.

What is blood pressure?

This is a question many Australians struggle to answer. Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in the arteries, enabling our heart to pump it around the body. It’s recorded as two numbers, systolic pressure (higher number, the pressure when the heart contracts) and diastolic pressure (lower number, the pressure when the heart relaxes).

Normal blood pressure: ranges between 100/60 and 120/80, fluctuating according to your body position, emotional state, exercise and sleep.

High blood pressure: is when your blood pressure regularly reads over 140/90. This puts a strain on blood vessels all over the body, making your heart work much harder to maintain optimal circulation. 

Top 10 warning signs of high blood pressure

While there aren’t many major red flags that signal high blood pressure early on, you should keep an eye out for the following changes to your body, which may occur as a result of hypertension:

  1. Severe headaches
  2. Nosebleeds
  3. Fatigue or confusion
  4. Vision problems
  5. Chest pain
  6. Difficulty breathing
  7. Irregular heartbeat
  8. Dizziness
  9. Sweating
  10. Trouble sleeping

If you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to visit your local pharmacist or GP, who can assess you and conduct a blood-pressure evaluation as a critical first step towards management and treatment.

Top 6 ways to prevent and control high blood pressure

Early prevention is better than a cure, and by making some lifestyle changes you can prevent high blood pressure. A combination of lifestyle factors can help you normalise your blood pressure in the longer term, including:

          • Increasing physical activity: Changing from a sedentary to more active lifestyle is a gradual process. Try to do at least 30 to 45 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days of the week. Walking is a great activity to get you moving and is a wonderful stress reliever.
          • Reducing salt in your diet: To help reduce your salt intake, you can start avoiding packaged and processed foods that are high in salt, choosing options that contain less than 120mg sodium per 100g. Try to look at labels with ‘low salt’, ‘salt reduced’ or ‘no added salt’. When cooking, you could also try to flavour meals with herbs and spices, instead of reaching straight for the salt mill.
          • Eating a healthy and balanced diet: Make sure you incorporate wholefoods in your diet, including vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, lean meat and poultry, fish and seafood, legumes, unsalted nuts and seeds. A healthy and balanced diet that’s low in salt can help you maintain a healthy weight.
          • Cutting down on alcohol: Different types of beer, wine and liquor have different amounts of alcohol, which you can enjoy responsibly, but moderation is key. Limit your alcohol intake to no more than 10 standard drinks a week. 
          • Quitting smoking: One way to effectively manage your blood pressure is to reduce your tobacco and quit smoking once and for all. One of the best and most effective ways to quit smoking is to put a plan in place from the start. Blooms The Chemist pharmacies have smoking health check services available to help you design a plan to quit smoking.
          • Getting regular blood pressure checks: If your blood pressure sits within a healthy range, you don’t present other risk factors for cardiovascular disease and have no family history of high blood pressure, it’s still important to have it measured at least every two years. Blood pressure evaluations are quick, painless and by getting into the habit of regular tests, it could save problems later.

           

        • In cases where blood pressure is very high, or when these lifestyle changes do not reduce it to healthy levels, you should consider visiting your local GP for advice and treatment options to suit your specific needs.

    Why do I need to know my blood pressure?

    It’s particularly important to have your blood pressure measured regularly because high blood pressure is asymptomatic unless it’s very severe, putting you at risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. This simple procedure could save your life and prevent the development of chronic illnesses over time. Blood pressure evaluations, which are available at Blooms The Chemist pharmacies around the country, are quick, easy and painless and an important first step to understanding how your heart is operating.

    You can also find blood pressure monitors for sale on Starts at 60’s Marketplace here.

    To read about high blood pressure medication and skin cancer, head here. To read about high blood pressure medication and Covid-19, head here.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

Do you monitor your blood pressure at home? What else have you found helps with high blood pressure?

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