Blood pressure is the pressure of your blood on the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps it around your body. It’s a vital part of how your heart and circulation works.
Your blood pressure naturally goes up and down all the time, adjusting to your heart’s needs depending on what you are doing. High blood pressure is when your blood pressure is persistently higher than normal.
A blood pressure reading under 120/80mmHg is considered optimal. Readings over 120/80mmHg and up to 139/89mmHg are in the normal to high normal range.
Blood pressure that’s high over a long time is one of the main risk factors for heart disease. As you get older, the chances of having persistently high blood pressure increases.
It’s very important to get your blood pressure checked regularly, and if it’s persistently high it needs to be controlled. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to a heart attack or stroke. It may also affect your kidneys.
The medical name for high blood pressure over a long period of time is hypertension.
The exact causes of high blood pressure are often not clear. Your blood pressure may be strongly influenced by:
- family history
- eating patterns, including salty foods
- alcohol intake
- how much physical activity you do.
Some medicines can also raise blood pressure.
You can’t feel high blood pressure. There are usually no warning signs, so you can have it and not know. That’s why it’s important to get it checked.
The best way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked by your doctor or health practitioner.
They will take your blood pressure using an inflatable bag (cuff) that goes around your arm. It’s joined to a device that measures the pressure. Read more on the tests page
Blood pressure can vary at different times of the day. Sometimes it can even go up just because someone is taking it, so it’s important to have an accurate measure of your blood pressure. Talk to your doctor or health practitioner about what your blood pressure level should be.
Controlling high blood pressure
If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about the best way to control it.
Your doctor may recommend that you make some healthier lifestyle choices, like changing the food you eat or getting more exercise.
Find out more about important lifestyle changes to manage your high blood pressure. Keep your heart healthy
Many people also need medicine to control their high blood pressure. Your doctor will tell you if you need medicine, and monitor its effects. Blood pressure medicines don’t cure high blood pressure, but they help to control it. You have to keep taking the medicines regularly, often for the rest of your life. Don’t stop taking your medicine without talking to your doctor first.
If you take medicine for your blood pressure, it’s still important to have a healthy lifestyle.
Monitoring your blood pressure
Your doctor may want you to monitor your blood pressure at home, or wear a monitor over a 24-hour period, to check how it varies. Read more on the tests page.
Keep track of your blood pressure with our Blood Pressure Record Card.
Manage your heart disease risk factors
High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease.
Need more information?
Sign up for the Heart Foundation newsletter. Get tips for leading a healthy lifestyle and reducing your risk of heart disease straight to you inbox.
Do you have high blood pressure?
Keep your blood pressure in check using this action plan designed for heart attack survivors.