About high blood pressure

High blood pressure is a fairly common but dangerous condition. If you have high blood pressure, there is often no symptoms and the first sign of your blood pressure being high could be a heart attack or stroke.


Around 50,000 people in Somerset have high blood pressure and don’t know it.

It is recommended that everyone over the age 45 gets their blood pressure measured at least once every five years and more often if you find out it is high.

Testing is key for detection and reducing the risk of complications. It is important to know your blood pressure numbers in the same way you know your height and weight. By knowing your blood pressure from a young age, it is easier to spot when something is not quite right.

If you have high blood pressure, it puts strain on your heart and blood vessels and can increase the risk of heart attacks or stroke.

Loaning a blood pressure kit

We have worked with the library service in Somerset to put in place a convenient, easy and free to access service – providing blood pressure monitoring kits that can be loaned from libraries across the county. The kits can be loaned for a fortnight allowing people to check their blood pressure, ‘at rest’, in their own home.

The monitors can also be used by people who know they have diagnosed hypertension to check if their lifestyle changes and treatments are keeping their blood pressure in the normal range and provide an update for their GP.

Our health machine in Taunton library is free to use by members of the public. Just step on and it will tell you your height, weight, blood pressure and pulse rate. The video below by Clinton Rogers explains how it works, and there is a bit more background on the project in our handy download.

Alternatively, Your GP practice may have some monitors they can lend you. They may also send you a text so you can report your blood pressure readings that way.

Check with your local pharmacy as a number of local pharmacies are starting to run a scheme where you borrow a machine to monitor your blood pressure at home.

The British Heart Foundation has created an animation to help you understand what high blood pressure is and how it is caused. There is also information about how you can lower it available in a range of languages on the Blood Pressure UK website.

Home Blood Pressure Monitoring

If you have an isolated high blood pressure reading, you may be advised to monitor your blood pressure at home over the course of a week. This gives a more reliable indication of your average blood pressure and is what your GP will want to know before taking further action.

This video demonstration with a British Heart Foundation senior cardiac nurse, shows how to measure blood pressure at home.

How to measure blood pressure at home – Blood pressure information available in a range of languages on the Blood Pressure UK website.

Understanding your numbers

Once you know your numbers, you can use the blood pressure chart to see what they mean and if your blood pressure is in the healthy range. The chart is suitable for adults of any age, as the cut-off point for diagnosing high blood pressure doesn’t change with age.

Simply find your top number (systolic) on the left side of the chart and your bottom number (diastolic) on the bottom. Where the two lines meet is your blood pressure.

Image of a chart showing areas of blood pressure results

As a general guide:

  • high blood pressure is considered to be from 140/90mmHg or more if your reading was taken at a GP surgery or clinic (or an average of 135/85mmHg if it was taken at home)
  • if you are over the age of 80, high blood pressure is considered to be from 150/90mmHg or more if your reading was taken at a GP surgery or clinic (or an average of 145/85mmHg if it was taken at home)
  • ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, while the target for people over the age of 80 years old is below 150/90mmHg (or 145/85mmHg if it was taken at home)

Blood pressure readings from 121/81mmHg to 139/89mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you do not take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.

Everyone’s blood pressure will be slightly different. What is considered low or high for you may be normal for someone else.

Once you know you have high blood pressure

Don’t worry! Although this is not the outcome you would have liked, there are lots of other people coping and reducing their blood pressure successfully. The British Heart Foundation run a free Online community for people with heart and circulatory conditions to get information and support from people who are going through similar situations. Blood Pressure UK is another great charity with plenty of resources to explain high blood pressure and a helpline if you want someone to talk to.

There are many lifestyle changes which you can put in place to reduce your blood pressure:

  • Eat more fruit and vegetables  – These are the best source of potassium in the diet which helps lower blood pressure. Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Don’t forget that frozen, canned and dried varieties count too.
  • Be active –  Aim for half an hour of exercise on five days of the week. The exercise needs to make you breath faster and warm you up.at less salt An adult should eat less than 6g of salt a day. Over 75% of the salt we eat is already “hidden” in foods. Make sure you check food labels for salt content and don’t add extra to your food.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation –  Don’t drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week on a regular basis and spread this over three or more days.
  • Lose weight if you need to –  If you lose the excess weight, you will probably find your blood pressure reduces.
  • Stop smoking –  To reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.
  • Cut back on caffeine – Drinking more than 4 cups of coffee a day may increase your blood pressure. Try switching to caffeine free options.

You may need to look at medication. Your GP will advise you on the best course of action. The aim of treatment is to bring your average blood pressure to below 135/85 if you are under age 80 or under 145/85 if you are over 80. Once you know you have high blood pressure, you should check it at least once a year to make sure your actions are still working to keep your average levels normal. If you find your blood pressure is creeping back up, then it is time to review your lifestyle and consult with a GP again.

More information and resources

Currently, Public Health Somerset are part of Our Somerset’s* “Take the Pressure Off” campaign, an initiative dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of regular blood pressure monitoring. In Somerset, we believe in taking proactive steps towards a healthier community, and this campaign is at the heart of that belief.

For more information on the campaign, visit: Blood pressure – Our Somerset 


What is ‘Our Somerset’?
Somerset’s Integrated Care System (known as Our Somerset) brings together all the organisations responsible for delivering health and care within our communities, including Public Health Somerset.

If we work together, we can intervene faster and earlier to keep people well and offer more joined up support for people facing significant challenges.

Last reviewed: March 20, 2024 by Jennifer

Next review due: September 20, 2024

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