What is high blood pressure

Blood pressure is the pressure of your blood on the walls of your blood vessels and heart as it pumps blood around the body. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) occurs when your blood pressure is persistently higher than normal.

Your blood pressure naturally fluctuates up and down all the time, adjusting to the needs of your body and activity. An optimal blood pressure is around 120/80mmHg. Readings that are persistently over this are known as high blood pressure.

What causes high blood pressure?

Often, the cause of high blood pressure is unknown. However, some things that can increase your risk factors, including:

  • Family history of high blood pressure

  • Eating patterns, including salty foods

  • Alcohol intake

  • How much physical activity you do

Occasionally, some medications can increase your blood pressure.

Why is having high blood pressure bad?

High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney and diseases of your blood vessels.

The following factors also increase your risk of complications associated with high blood pressure:

  • Having high blood cholesterol

  • Being overweight

  • Having diabetes

How do I know if I have high blood pressure?

Often you don’t know if your blood pressure is high. There are usually no symptoms, which is why its important to get it checked.

Your doctor may ask you to monitor your blood pressure at home, or wear a monitor over a 24 hour period to check how it varies, because it is not possible to diagnose high blood pressure with one isolated reading – this is because it can be falsely elevated, e.g. if you are stressed or have just been rushing or had a lot of coffee.

What happens if I do have high blood pressure?

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure by your doctor, they will discuss varying levels of management with you depending on your health and past medical history.

Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as changing the food you eat, increasing your level of exercise, reducing your alcohol intake and rate of smoking, and reducing your weight if required.

Many people also need medications to control their blood pressure. Your doctor will tell you if you need to take medications and monitor its effects. These medications do not cure your high blood pressure, but they help to control it. It is important to continue to take the medications regularly to keep your blood pressure under control and reduce complications.

If you are placed on medications, it is important to also maintain a healthy lifestyle too.

What now?

Ask your GP to check your blood pressure next time you have an appointment. If you are concerned that you may have high blood pressure, or you have some of the other risk factors associated with diseases caused by high blood pressure, book an appointment with one of our GPs to get your blood pressure checked and discuss how to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.


Department of Health, date unknown, High Blood Pressure, Government of Western Australia, retrieved online 3/5/17, < http://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/F_I/High-blood-pressure >

Heart Foundation 2017, Blood Pressure, Heart Foundation, retrieved online 3/5/17, < https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/know-your-risks/blood-pressure >

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