So you think you've got high blood pressure? Well, it's a good idea to have your blood pressure checked every now and then, especially if you have a family history, but you won't be able to tell if your blood pressure is high because it's usually symptomless. Many people are lulled into a false sense of security because they "feel" well but this is not an accurate way of gauging if your blood pressure is elevated.
So how do you find out if you have high blood pressure? The only reliable way is to get it checked. There are several ways you can do this. Most Chemists will do a blood pressure check for you. We also have a self service blood pressure pod at our Pencoed Surgery. It's only available to patents registered with our surgery and is free to use. Our Health Care Assistants can also check your blood pressure, but please don't make an appointment to see the GP "just" for a first blood pressure check - their expertise is best utilised if you happen to have high blood pressure, not for simply checking in the first instance.
Many patients choose to purchase their own blood pressure monitoring machine. These can be useful but you need to purchase from a reputable source and remember that many machines can go out of calibration and need to be tested for reliability from time to time (all of the monitors that we use professionally are tested and recalibrated annually). The British and Irish Hypertension Society publish a list of BP machines for home use here. "Which" magazine have also published a best buy guide to blood pressure machines here.
Of course, having a machine means that you need to know how to use it. Here's a useful video guide from the British Heart Foundation showing you how best to measure your blood pressure
Your GP will guide you about how often to check your blood pressure, but be careful that it doesn't become an obsession. It's good to check, but if the levels are normal, be sensible about how often you need to do it. For patients without additional risk factors, who are otherwise well, we usually advise a once a year check.
How do you prevent high blood pressure? Well, you can't do anything about the genes you've inherited from your ancestors but all of the common sense things you've read about a healthy lifestyle will help, such as keeping your weight down, not overindulging in alcohol and salt and trying to do some regular exercise.
NHS Choices have a really good series of pages on high blood pressure and you can read more about it here.
The British Heart Foundation also have a really good information page that contains the following "Patient story" video