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Health: Under pressure? Get checked; Are you at risk from the silent killer? Lucy Corry looks at how we're putting our bodies and our lives under too much pressure.

Byline: Lucy Corry

More than 16 million Britons are at risk from a deadly condition - and one-third of them have no idea until it's too late.

People with high blood pressure or hypertension rarely have any symptoms and the first many sufferers know about it is when they have a heart attack or a stroke.

The Blood Pressure Association (BPA) says 5.3 million people with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition, while only 1.6 million of those who are can control their blood pressure to target levels.

This failure to manage what is essentially a preventable condition causes 62,000 unnecessary deaths every year.

People with high blood pressure are three times more likely to develop heart disease and stroke and twice as likely to die from these as people with normal blood pressure.

"Raised blood pressure is the most important cause of premature death in the world and is responsible for more than 60 per cent of all strokes and 50 per cent of all heart disease," says BPA executive director, Nickie Roberts.

"The first step is to know your blood pressure and the only way to do this is to have it checked. Having a blood pressure test is easy and painless," she says.

During this week, the BPA has been running its fifth annual Know Your Numbers campaign to encourage people to have their blood pressure checked. Free testing and information have been on offer at special Pressure Stations located in gyms, pharmacies, workplaces, shopping centres and GP surgeries across the country.

"The BPA's message to everybody is know your blood pressure numbers and take that first step to fighting heart disease and stroke," Roberts says.

High blood pressure - also known as hypertension - refers to the pressure of blood in your arteries.

Having high blood pressure increases the strain on the arteries, which in turn increases the risk of them becoming narrow.

This heightens the risk of developing narrow blood vessels or clots, which can cause damage to the heart or brain.

The higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk of heart problems, strokes, kidney disease or failure, some eye conditions and diabetes.

The BPA says blood pressure of greater than 140/90 mmHg is considered to be high.

When blood pressure is taken it is written down as two numbers.

The first number is called the systolic pressure and shows the pressure in your arteries when your heart is forcing blood through them.

The bottom number is called the diastolic pressure and shows the pressure in your arteries when your heart is at rest. The top number can be between 90 and 240, while the bottom number can be between 60 and 140.

Both numbers are important and it is essential that people are given treatment to lower their blood pressure whether either or both are raised.

The BPA recommends that adults have their blood pressure checked every five years, but if your blood pressure is on the high side of normal (between 130/85 and 139/89 mmHg) you should get it checked every year.

High blood pressure can affect anyone, but some groups are more at risk than others.

The BPA say that if you have a family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack, you are more likely to suffer high blood pressure yourself.

People of African-Caribbean and South Asian origin are also more at risk of developing high blood pressure.

Men have higher rates of high blood pressure until the ages of 5564, then the incidence of high blood pressure is higher in women after the age of 65Geographically, Londoners have the lowest average blood pressure, while northerners tend to have higher rates of high blood pressure than southerners.

Lowering your blood pressure requires changing your lifestyle, taking medication, or both.

High blood pressure can often be helped by making simple lifestyle changes, such as cutting down on salt and fat and including more fruit and vegetables.

Maintaining your ideal weight and taking more exercise will also help.

If your blood pressure levels are good, making sure you have a healthy lifestyle will keep it that way

If you would like more informa-tion on high blood pressure and to find a 'Know Your Numbers' pressure station in your area go to bpassoc.org.uk

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Blood pressure problems affects millions of people, millions of whom don't realise they are affected
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 17, 2005
Words:736
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