High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, occurs when the pressure inside the arteries is frequently or permanently higher than it should be. For most people, this means higher than 140/90 mmHg. Your blood pressure is usually controlled by your nervous system, heart, kidneys, and various hormones. In certain circumstances (e.g. while exercising) it is normal for your blood pressure to increase temporarily. However, when the blood pressure remains elevated for prolonged periods of time, this can cause damage to blood vessels, your heart, and other organs.
High blood pressure becomes more common as people get older, affecting 30-40% of Australian adults over the age of 18 years old. For most people, this results from a combination of genetics, and hardening of the arteries. However, other factors can increase you blood pressure, including stress, excess of certain hormones (e.g. thyroid hormones, cortisol, testosterone), certain blood conditions, and kidney disease.
Importance for PLHIV50+
It is important to check your blood pressure from time to time, as hypertension usually causes no symptoms, unless particularly high. Over time, unmanaged high blood pressure can lead to damage to the circulatory system, increasing your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other complications.
People living with HIV (PLHIV) are at higher risk of high blood pressure, particularly as they get older. Detecting and controlling hypertension is an important modifiable risk factor to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Managing your blood pressure with your healthcare professional can involve a combination of lifestyle factors, and medications. The first thing you can do is to lead a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise. Eating a low-fat diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables, reducing your salt intake, and cutting down on alcohol can all reduce blood pressure. Exercise is also important – try to exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week, and reduce the amount of time spent sitting. Of course, taking medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider is also really important to reducing your blood pressure and its complications.