The ‘silent killer’ five million people in the UK don’t know they have

MILLIONS of Brits are living with untreated high blood pressure.

The “silent killer” can hike your risk of heart attacks and strokes, so it’s vital to get checked, the NHS warns.

As many as five million Brits could be living with untreated high blood pressure


As many as five million Brits could be living with untreated high blood pressureCredit: Getty

Around one in four adults in the UK have it – but as many as five million have no idea.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms so is often missed.

The only way to find out if you’ve got it is to get a blood pressure test.

All adults over the age of 40 are advised to get checked at least every five years.

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This can be done at your GP surgery, some pharmacies, as part of an NHS Health Check and in some workplaces.

Failure to do so could be fatal.

High blood pressure is responsible for more than half of all strokes and heart attacks.

It is also a major risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease and vascular dementia

Simon Gillespie, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation, said in 2019: “Getting your blood pressure under control is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

“Millions of adults of all ages are living with untreated high blood pressure – a ticking time bomb that puts their future health in jeopardy.

“Having your blood pressure checked takes less than five minutes, but it is all too easy to put it on the back burner in our hectic day to day lives.

“That’s why we’re urging everyone to take a moment this month and get their pressure checked – it could ultimately save your life.”

Professor Jamie Waterall, national lead for cardiovascular disease prevention at Public Health England, added: “High blood pressure is the country’s leading cause of heart attacks and strokes, which is why we must make it easier for people to get their blood pressure checked.

“If you’re over 40, getting your free NHS Health Check is a simple way to find out your blood pressure as well as your risk of other serious conditions.

“Diagnosing high blood pressure earlier and managing it in line with NICE guidance will save thousands of lives and prevent years spent in ill-health.”

What is high blood pressure?

Every blood pressure reading consists of two numbers, shown as one number on top of the other, according to Blood Pressure UK.

The first (top) number is your systolic blood pressure – the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

The second (or bottom) number is your diastolic blood pressure – the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels between heartbeats when blood is pumped around your heart.

An ideal blood pressure reading is between 90/60mmHg (millimetres of mercury) and 120/80mmHg.

You have high blood pressure if your readings are consistently above 140/90mmHg.

If you’re over the age of 80, high blood pressure is considered to be from 150/90mmHg.

If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes, the NHS says.

Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions, such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Heart failure
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Aortic aneurysms
  • Kidney disease
  • Vascular dementia

If you have high blood pressure, reducing it even a small amount can help lower your risk of these health conditions.

Doctors can help you keep yours at safe levels with lifestyle changes and medication.

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You might be more at risk if you:

  • Are overweight
  • Eat too much salt and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables
  • Do not do enough exercise
  • Drink too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
  • Smoke
  • Have a lot of stress
  • Are over 65 years old
  • Have a relative with high blood pressure
  • Are of black African or Black Caribbean descent
  • Live in a deprived area


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