Studies by healthcare organisations have warned that high blood pressure rates are still very high amongst some ethnic communities, in particular with people of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin. High blood pressure is the biggest known cause of heart disease and stroke in the UK. Heart disease and stroke can cause serious illness, disability, and even death.
South Asian people in the UK are at a much higher risk of dying from heart disease or a stroke. Controlling your blood pressure can really help to lower your risk of serious health problems. High blood pressure is the biggest known cause of disability and premature death through stroke, heart attack and heart disease. One in three adults in the UK has high blood pressure and every day 350 people have a preventable stroke or heart attack caused by the condition.
What is blood pressure? When your heart beats, it pumps blood round your body to give it the energy and oxygen it needs. As blood moves it pushes against the sides of your blood vessels. The strength of this pushing is your blood pressure. Blood pressure is not usually something that you feel. The only way to know what your blood pressure is, is to have it measured. When your blood pressure is measured it will be written as two numbers, e.g. 120/80 mmHg or ‘120 over 80’. Next time you have yours measured, ask what your numbers are. Why does high blood pressure matter? If your reading is 140 over 90 or higher, over a number of week then you probably have high blood pressure.
Even if just one of the numbers is high, you may have high blood pressure. High blood pressure won’t make you feel unwell, but it can be very dangerous to your health. If you do not lower it, it can damage your heart, blood vessels and other organs.
This can put you at risk of serious health problems. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure can damage your heart and blood vessels even more. For this reason, you may need to keep your blood pressure below 130 over 80.
High blood pressure can affect your body in many ways. One of the major impacts of high blood pressure is on your heart. It can be a major cause of heart attacks and can also cause heart failure or an enlarged heart, both of which will mean that your heart is not working as well as it should.
High blood pressure can also cause strokes leading to some forms of dementia. This means problems like memory loss, confusion, and difficulties with speaking and understanding.
High blood pressure can cause problems with your kidneys too. If your kidneys are damaged, they will often try to raise your blood pressure even higher. This puts even more strain on your heart and blood vessels and on the kidneys themselves.
Perhaps one of the most common symptoms of high blood pressure is your legs. High blood pressure can cause the blood vessels in your legs to narrow, making it difficult for blood to flow through them. This can cause painful cramps, for example when you are walking High blood pressure can also cause swelling in your ankles. This can be uncomfortable and may sometimes lead to varicose veins or leg ulcers.
Taking action and maintaining healthy blood pressure can help prevent many illnesses. You can make a real difference to your heart health with small lifestyle changes, here are some of our suggestions:
Managing your weight – Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of coronary heart disease, especially for people who carry too much weight around their middle this puts you at greater risk of high blood pressure and diabetes. So managing your weight is crucial in order to reduce high blood pressure. Making simple changes to your diet can help you lose weight.
Cut the fat – Cooking or frying with ghee and butter, and adding them to dishes, increases the amount of saturated fat in your diet. Try grilling your food instead of frying it. Or, use pure vegetable, rapeseed, sunflower or olive oil instead.
Cut down on your salt – Eating too much salt can give you high blood pressure. Slowly reduce the amount of salt you add each day and don’t add it at the table. Try adding more herbs and spices to bump up the flavour of your favourite dishes.
Try eating more home cooked meals – The way many take away curries are prepared does not make them a healthy option – there really is no substitute for home cooking!
Shireen Patel, who is 36 years old and has two children, told Asian Sunday about her recent scare with high blood pressure.
“I realised I had high blood pressure at the age of 32. I was pregnant with my second child and it was a difficult pregnancy to say the least. I suffered from pre-eclampsia during my pregnancy and spent the most of my last weeks in hospital. My daughter was born early due to the pre-eclampsia.
My blood pressure didn’t return to normal as was expected, so therefore I now have to take medication to control it. I don’t smoke or drink alcohol. I try to keep to a fairly healthy diet Unfortunately, high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes are quite common in my family. But I never thought I would suffer in the way I did.
So since my pregnancy I have reduced my salt intake and go for regular walks to the park with my children. I feel like I have a much healthier lifestyle now than I had when I was pregnant. You have to learn to adapt, especially if you want to spend as much time with your children.