World Hypertension Day is observed annually on May 17 to raise awareness of hypertension and encourage hypertension prevention, detection, and control.

In 2023, the theme is “Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer.”  Hypertension or high blood pressure affects more than one billion people around the globe and over 30% of the adult population in the world.  It is the primary risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, particularly coronary artery disease and stroke.  Hypertension is also a risk factor for chronic kidney disease, heart failure, arrhythmia and dementia.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of the blood against the blood vessel walls as the heart pumps.  When the heart squeezes and pushes blood into the vessels, blood pressure rises.  It lowers again when the heart relaxes.

Blood pressure goes up as you move or work and down as you rest.  Some pressure is always needed to keep the blood moving.  When your blood pressure stays high, even when you rest, you need to do something about it.

Understanding blood pressure readings

Blood pressure is measured in units of millimetres of mercury (mmHg).  A doctor or nurse takes your blood pressure to see if it high, normal or low.  When they check your blood pressure, they give you two numbers.

The first number is called the systolic blood pressure.  This number stands for the highest level of blood pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats.

The second number is the diastolic blood pressure.  It tells how low your blood pressure is when your heart relaxes.

For example: 120/80 (120 over 80) means the systolic pressure (when the heart squeezes) is 120 and the diastolic pressure (when the heart relaxes) is 80.  Your blood pressure should be under 140/90.

Have your blood pressure measured twice, with a brief break in between.  If the readings are different by 5 points or more, have it done a third time.

For more information on high blood pressure, the causes, how to prevent and treat it, download this information brochure: Blood Pressure Patient Information Leaflet.