My GP tells me that I have high blood pressure and has prescribed medication. Does this mean that I have an increased risk of having a stroke or heart attack?
Dr Klaus Witte, Consultant Cardiologist, Spire Leeds Hospital
High blood pressure (hypertension) affects more than half of people older than 65 years but is common in younger people too. High blood pressure does increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks, but identifying and treating hypertension can prevent or postpone these problems very successfully.
High blood pressure does not usually cause symptoms so a regular blood pressure check is important. Recent guidelines suggest the best way to diagnose high blood pressure and assess the response to treatment is with a monitor for 24 hours or with home blood pressure measurements. Most doctors prefer a 24 hour reading to give a good idea of how your blood pressure is during the night as well as during the day.
Treatment will start with one tablet a day and the dose will be gradually increased until the blood pressure is controlled. Most people will need two different drugs to get accurate control of the blood pressure, so if your GP adds a second tablet this does not mean that the first is not working or that you have especially bad blood pressure. Many common drugs can now be prescribed as a single once-a-day ‘combination tablet’ which is more convenient and also cheaper for people paying for their prescriptions.
In summary, having high blood pressure does increase your risk of heart attacks and strokes, but identifying it early, treating it well and keeping it monitored can greatly lower the risk.