February the 14th might make your heart skip a beat, but NHS bosses are using it as an excuse to urge people to check their heart health.
A Sunderland-based GP is hopeful the romantic date could encourage people to “think a little differently” about their cardiovascular system.
This includes being mindful about a common “silent killer” – high blood pressure.
Doctor Raj Bethapudi, who is also the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board clinical lead for cardiovascular health, wants the public to be mindful of their blood pressure.
Speaking to Chronicle Live, Dr Bethapudi said: “This February, why not think a little differently about Valentine’s Day and give your heart some love.
“High blood pressure makes your heart work harder when pumping blood around your body, but the good news is that it’s very treatable.
“It’s called a silent killer, because there are usually no symptoms and people generally get on with life as usual, until a stroke or heart attack occurs.”
To avoid this he recommended getting your blood pressure checked regularly – either by your doctor or using an at-home device.
“Regular checks mean any problems can be spotted early and we can get you the right support,” he continued.
“Whether you’re planning a romantic night out or not, remember to give your heart some love and care – it just might save your life.
“It really is important to get your blood pressure checked, and learn what the numbers mean.”
It is estimated that around 5.5 million people in the UK have the condition without even knowing it.
Luckily high blood pressure can be preventable and, for those who may already have it, treatable, too.
It’s not always clear what causes high blood pressure, but there are things that can increase your risk.
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)
- 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.
The NHS recommends you have your blood pressure checked at least once every five years if you are over 40.
People who have “borderline” blood pressure or have lifestyle risk factors should get checked yearly.
To help prevent high blood pressure or lower your reading, the NHS recommends you:
- Reduce the amount of salt you eat and have a generally healthy diet
- Cut back on alcohol
- Lose weight if you’re overweight
- Exercise regularly
- Cut down on caffeine
- Stop smoking.
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
High blood pressure is considered to be from 140/90mmHg or more if your reading was taken at a pharmacy, GP surgery or clinic (or an average of 135/85mmHg if it was taken at home).