High Blood Pressure in the working population ‘the silent killer’
As many as 7 million people in the UK are living with undiagnosed high blood pressure, without knowing they are at risk.(BHF, 2013)
High blood pressure – or hypertension – means that your blood pressure is consistently higher than the recommended level.
Persistently high blood pressure can damage your arteries, put extra strain on the heart muscle and increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure contributes to more than a fifth of heart attacks and half of all strokes. Lowering your blood pressure reduces these risks.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure – or hypertension – means that your blood pressure is consistently higher than the recommended level. High blood pressure is not usually something that you can feel or notice, but over time if it is not treated, your heart may become enlarged making your heart pump less effectively. This can lead to heart failure.
Having high blood pressure increases your chance of having a heart attack or stroke.
There isn’t always an explanation for the cause of high blood pressure, but these can play a part:
- not doing enough physical activity
- being overweight or obese
- having too much salt in your diet
- regularly drinking too much alcohol
- stress factors
- a family history of high blood pressure.
The upper limit for Safety Critical Workers is 180/100 – if your BP is at this level or above you will be referred to your GP for follow up before a SCW Certificate can be issued.
Everyone’s blood pressure varies during the day.
What do the numbers mean?
Every blood pressure reading consists of two numbers or measurements. They are shown as one number on top of the other and measured in millimetres of mercury.
The first (or top) number represents the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart contracts and pumps blood through your arteries – your systolic blood pressure.
The second (or bottom) number represents the lowest level your blood pressure reaches as your heart relaxes between beats – your diastolic blood pressure.
Normal blood pressure should be below 140/90mmHg. If you have heart or circulatory disease, including being told you have coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack or stroke, or have diabetes or kidney disease, then it is usually recommended that your blood pressure should be below 130/80mmHg.
What can I do to reduce my blood pressure?
If your doctor or nurse says you have high blood pressure, they are likely to encourage you to make some lifestyle changes to help reduce it. This may include increasing your physical activity, losing weight, reducing the salt in your diet, cutting down on alcohol and eating a balanced, healthy diet.
If your blood pressure is very high your doctor is likely to prescribe you medication to control it to reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
If you are already being treated for high blood pressure and have any concerns about it, you should make an appointment with your GP. Do not stop taking your medication unless your GP tells you to. (BHF, 2013)