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What is hypertension (high blood pressure)?

Many Australians have high blood pressure.

There are no symptoms, so it’s important to have regular blood pressure checks.

High blood pressure increases your risk of serious diseases like stroke or heart attack.

You can lower your blood pressure by making lifestyle changes.

Blood pressure is the pressure your blood exerts against the walls of your arteries as it flows through your body. If it’s too high, your blood is pumping harder than usual, which places added stress on your heart and can clog the arteries up with fatty deposits.

As your heart pumps, the flow of blood in your arteries and your blood pressure rises and falls in a regular ‘wave’ pattern. Blood pressure peaks when your heart pumps (called ‘systole’) and falls when your heart relaxes (called ‘diastole’).High blood pressure is defined as a blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher in an adult. That is, your systolic blood pressure is higher than 140 and your diastolic blood pressure is higher than 90 mmHg.

Because there are no symptoms associated with high blood pressure, it is advised that you get your blood pressure checked once a year. If you leave high blood pressure untreated for long, you are putting yourself at greater risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke or kidney disease.

One of the best ways to avoid high blood pressure is to lead a healthy lifestyle. By exercising regularly, eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, cutting salt and fat out of your diet, and quitting smoking, you will reduce your likelihood of developing hypertension.

Symptoms of high blood pressure

In most cases, there are no signs or symptoms of high blood pressure. You can feel well, but still have high blood pressure.

The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to get it checked by a doctor or nurse.

If your doctor thinks your blood pressure is high, it’s likely that they will want to test it again over separate days to confirm this is the case. Or, they will ask you to wear a 24-hour monitor to test your blood pressure at home.

Causes of high blood pressure

High blood pressure can be caused by a range of factors, such as:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor diet
  • smoking
  • Certain medications
  • Ageing
  • Hereditary factors

How to lower blood pressure

Almost half of people with high blood pressure can make lifestyle changes to lower their blood pressure. These lifestyle changes include:

  • Regular physical activity
  • Losing weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating healthily
  • Reducing alcohol consumption

You should see your doctor before starting a new exercise program, and to discuss support options to help you make these significant lifestyle changes.

There are also prescription medicines available to help lower blood pressure called antihypertensive medications. Once prescribed, most people need to remain on these drugs for the rest of their lives.

Hypertension increases the risk of heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. However, when combined with one or more of smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol, hypertension can pose even more threat to your health.

Further information and sources


This article is of a general nature only. You should always seek medical advice if you think you may have the symptoms of high blood pressure (hypertension).