You could have a condition that is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease or stroke and not even realise it. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects more than 25% of UK adults but rarely shows any symptoms.


Less than 10% of hypertension cases have an identifiable cause. The remaining 90-95% are defined as being due to ‘non-specific lifestyle and genetic factors’. Your chances of having it increase if you are: overweight, smoke, drink large amounts of alcohol, eat too much salt or suffer from long-term sleep deprivation. You are also more at risk if you have a family history of hypertension or have African or Caribbean ancestry.


The only way to check if you have hypertension is to have your blood pressure checked. The NHS recommends that healthy adults over 40 should get checked once every five years. If you are at increased risk, then you should be checked once a year. Testing is free and available at your GP surgery. Your local pharmacy might also be able to do the test, and you can buy monitors to do it yourself at home.

Prevention is better than cure

If your lifestyle puts you at risk of developing hypertension, it’s time to make some changes:

#1. Watch your waistline

Carrying extra weight can have a direct effect on your blood pressure. As one goes up, so does the other. Conversely, if you can bring your weight down, your blood pressure should come down too.

#2. Eat well

Whatever the current state of your diet, there’s no excuse for being unaware of what foods are good or bad for you. Online, on the TV, in magazines, you can’t help but see or hear advice about diet. Here’s a reminder of what you should be aiming for:

  • Eat more whole grains, fruit and vegetables
  • Choose low-fat dairy products
  • Don’t add salt to your food
  • Reduce foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol
  • Eat less processed food
  • Keep a food diary to see what you really eat
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Reduce caffeine 


#3. Reduce stress

    It’s easier said than done, but even low-stress levels can be harmful. Relaxation techniques, mindfulness meditation and exercising, can all be helpful.


    #4. Stop Smoking

      Smoking itself doesn’t cause high blood pressure, but the two together increase your risk of heart or lung disease. Quitting can be difficult, so get help and advice from your GP.

      #5. Sleep Well

        Long-term sleep deprivation raises your risk of developing hypertension. Tips for getting a good night’s sleep include setting a regular bedtime, relaxing before you go to bed by reading or having a bath, and not watching TV in your bedroom.


        If achieving a healthy lifestyle is likely to require some drastic changes you will probably need some help and advice. Fortunately, there is plenty of support available. The NHS website has some great information regarding diet, weight loss and stopping smoking. Your local pharmacy and GP will also be able to help.