mette storheil - we all need help sometimes homeabout meservicespublicationsdirections to the officecontact info

Blood pressure / hypertension.

Last month I visited Norway and talked to a nurse friend who told me that she had started HRT (hormone replacement treatment). She had wanted to live through menopause without taking hormones, but after having measured her blood pressure during some hot flushes, she decided that it was time to begin HRT. She was protecting her heart.

Why did she think that this was so important?

The heart is a pump designed to force blood through our body. Blood is pumped from the heart through the arteries out to our muscles and organs.

Too much pressure puts a strain on the arteries and on the heart itself. This can cause an artery to rupture or the heart to fail under the strain - in the worst case stopping altogether.

Blood pressure depends on a combination of two factors:

  • how forcefully the heart pumps blood around the body
  • the state of the arteries

Hypertension occurs when blood is forced through the arteries at an increased pressure.

Around 20 % of people living in Europe suffer from high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is measured using two numbers. An example of this could be 'the blood pressure is 120 over 80'.

  • The first figure is the systolic blood pressure - the maximum pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts (beats) and pushes blood out into the body.
  • The second figure is the diastolic blood pressure. This is the minimum pressure in the arteries between beats when the heart relaxes to fill with blood.

There is a natural tendency for blood pressure to rise with age due to the reduced elasticity of the arterial system. Age is therefore one of the factors that needs to be taken into account in deciding whether a person's blood pressure is too high.

In general terms, people with blood pressure near 160/100, measured over some time, need treatment to lower their blood pressure.

What complications are caused by high blood pressure?

  • atherosclerosis: narrowing of the arteries
  • stroke: haemorrhage or blood clot in the brain
  • aneurysm: dangerous expansion of the main artery either in the chest or the abdomen, which becomes weakened and may rupture
  • heart attack
  • heart failure: reduced pumping ability
  • kidney failure
  • eye damage

Anyone can suffer from high blood pressure, but certain factors can seriously aggravate hypertension and increase the risk of complications:

  • a tendency in the family to suffer hypertension
  • obesity
  • smoking
  • diabetes Type 1 or Type 2
  • kidney diseases
  • high alcohol intake
  • excessive salt intake
  • lack of exercise
  • certain medicines, such as steroids
  • stress

I believe that every adult should ‘know our numbers’- i.e. height, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

We should also have regular blood pressure tests if there is a family tendency for hypertension. This way, treatment can be started before any complications arise.

What can we do ourselves?

  • stop smoking
  • lose weight
  • exercise regularly
  • cut down on alcohol
  • eat a varied diet
  • reduce stress by trying different relaxation techniques, or by avoiding stressful situations

These changes will lower our blood pressure.
If blood pressure requires medical treatment, medicine will probably have to be taken on a regular basis.

Never stop taking it without consulting your GP, even if you feel fine. Hypertension can lead to serious complications if left untreated.
Some people may have very low blood pressure; my daughter has a regular pressure at about 100/60, and for her this is normal and uncomplicated. I recommend that you pay attention and talk to your doctor when in doubt.

    Copyright © 2005. All Rights Reserved Development by Studio 2005 mette storheil