High blood pressure is the third biggest risk factor for premature death in the UK, affecting as many as one in four adults.
Symptoms of the condition only appear in extreme cases, and include headaches, difficulty breathing and chest pain, meaning high blood pressure is usually diagnosed through a check up with a GP.
High blood pressure causes include being overweight, having too much salt in your diet, and not doing enough physical activity, among others.
Your doctor should check your blood pressure in both arms to see whether you have the condition.
Failure to do so could result in a wrong diagnosis, increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Early detection of high blood pressure is important, as it means treatment can begin faster which lowers your risk of developing life-threatening diseases.
A 2012 study by Exeter researchers published in The Lancet found that measuring blood pressure in both arms increased the chance of identifying health problems, such as high blood pressure.
They suggested that if the difference between blood pressure in your arteries during the contraction of your heart, or systolic blood pressure, is 10 mmHg or more, this could indicate high blood pressure, and an increased risk of premature death from associated conditions.
The Harvard Medical School in America advises following the guidelines of measuring blood pressure in both arms as this “could be an early warning sign of heart disease.”
Guidelines for GPs in the UK say that they should measure blood pressure by taking readings from both arms, however this doesn’t always happen.
“Although existing guidelines do state that blood pressure should be measured in both arms, this is not often done,” said the Blood Pressure Association on its website.
“The findings do support the need for blood pressure checks in both arms to be the norm rather than being a guideline recommendation that is mostly ignored.”
“Further research is needed to clarify whether substantial differences between arms should prompt aggressive management of cardiovascular risk factors.
Blood Pressure Association Trustee, Professor Bryan Williams, reiterated that “This study reinforces the message already in the blood pressure management guidelines [to check blood pressure in both arms].”
High blood pressure is defined as a reading over 140/90 mmHg.
You can lower your blood pressure by making small lifestyle changes, the NHS says.
Cutting back on the amount of salt in your diet could help to prevent hypertension.
Aim to eat less than 6g of salt a day – the equivalent to bout a teaspoonful.
Eat a low-fat, high-fibre diet, as well as eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables everyday.
Being overweight may also make it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body, which could raise your blood pressure.
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