Your blood pressure is constantly changing as your heart pushes and relaxes. High blood pressure is when your blood pressure is consistently higher than a safe blood pressure for you.
As your arteries become narrower and less stretchy, your blood pressure rises. Having high blood pressure means that your blood is moving through your blood vessels with extra force. Over time this can lead to damaged arteries and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. It can also damages organs like the eyes, kidneys and brain.
We don't always know what causes high blood pressure, but it often runs in families. Sometimes kidney or glandular disease may be responsible. However eating too much salt, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight, and not moving around enough each day can also contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease.
It is difficult to give an example of what high blood pressure is, because it depends on the individual. The level of blood pressure that is 'high' for you depends on lots of different factors. Generally, the lower your blood pressure, the better. If you have a history of heart disease, diabetes or risk of heart attack or stroke that is higher than 15%, it is recommended that your blood pressure should be less than 130/80.
This means that many people are unaware they have high blood pressure, which can put them at risk of heart disease. The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have it checked. Ask your doctor or nurse how often you should have your blood pressure checked and encourage your family/whanau and friends to have theirs checked too.
A single high blood pressure reading does not necessarily mean that you have high blood pressure. It is normal for your blood pressure to rise and fall during the day. It increases during physical activity or when you are excited, angry or afraid and these are usually short-lived episodes.
You are usually considered to have high blood pressure if your blood pressure stays high for three separate readings over at least three months.
You may have some questions for your health professional about your blood pressure. Here are some suggestions of things you might like to ask:
Check out our blood pressure poster