Know your blood pressure like you know your PIN

Know your blood pressure like you know your PIN: Officials urge us to get clued up on the health information that ‘can save lives’

  • Public Health England is also urging the public to know their cholesterol levels
  • This will help us seek help early, with ‘prevention always being better than cure’
  • Hypertension and high cholesterol cause heart disease, which kills one in four 
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Health officials are urging us to become as familiar with our blood pressure and cholesterol as we are with our bank PIN. 

Public Health England (PHE) claims ‘thousands of heart attacks and strokes could be prevented’ if the public was clued up on their vital health information.

This would enable us to seek help early, with ‘prevention always being better than cure’, its chief executive said.

Officials at Public Health England and NHS England are urging us to become as familiar with our blood pressure and cholesterol readings as we are with our PIN number (stock)

Duncan Selbie, CEO of PHE, said: ‘Know your numbers and save your life. 

‘We know our PIN numbers but not the numbers that save our lives. 

‘Thousands of heart attacks and strokes can be prevented by more people knowing their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers and by seeking help early. 

‘Prevention is always better than cure.’

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PHE and NHS England are collaborating in the first national effort to improve the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rate), high blood pressure and high cholesterol – all of which can cause heart disease. 

These conditions rarely cause symptoms, with more than five million living with undiagnosed hypertension in England alone. 


Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is vital for the normal functioning of the body.

But too much can cause it to build up in the arteries, restricting blood flow to the heart, brain and rest of the body.

This raises the risk of angina, heart attacks, stroke and blood clots. 

Cholesterol is made in the liver and is carried in the blood by proteins.

The first – high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – carries cholesterol from cells to the liver where it is broken down or passed as waste. This is ‘good cholesterol’.

‘Bad cholesterol’ – low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – carries cholesterol to cells, with excessive amounts then building in the artery walls.

High cholesterol can be genetic but it is also linked to a diet rich in saturated fat, as well as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and a family history of stroke or heart disease. 

Blood cholesterol is measured in units called millimoles per litre of blood, often shortened to mmol/L.

A healthy adult’s overall level should be 5mmol/L or less, while their LDL level should be no more than 3mmol/L. An ideal level of HDL is above 1mmol/L.

Cholesterol can be lowered by eating a healthy, low-fat diet; not smoking; and exercising regularly.

If these do not help, cholesterol-lowering medication like statins may be prescribed.

Source: NHS  

By 2029, PHE and NHS England want 80 per cent of those with high blood pressure to be diagnosed, up from today’s 57 per cent.

They also want three quarters of 40- to 74-year-olds to have an official heart disease risk check and have their cholesterol recorded.

This is offered for free for people in this age group, however, just 49 per cent (7.6million) of those eligible for the check-up have received one.  

And finally, the collaboration wants the number of high-risk 40- to 74-year-olds treated with statins to increase from 35 per cent to 45 per cent.

Heart disease kills one in four people in the UK and US.

This collaboration is a step towards meeting the long-term plan of preventing 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases within a decade, officials said.

Professor Stephen Powis, medical director of the NHS, said: ‘This shows the fantastic commitment being made by this coalition to identify and treat heart disease and stroke which are top priorities in the NHS Long Term Plan.

‘These ambitions will save thousands of lives by identifying and targeting people most at risk of these preventable conditions.’

The efforts also aim to reduce the health inequalities associated with heart disease, with those living in deprived communities being four times more likely to die prematurely from the condition. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: ‘Prevention is at the heart of our vision for improving the health of the nation, empowering people to stay healthy, not just treating them when they’re ill. 

‘Almost half of those with high blood pressure are going about their daily lives without it being detected or treated. 

‘Millions of people are needlessly at risk of heart attacks or strokes when it could be prevented. 

‘By coming together across the system to agree these ambitions, we have set the goal posts for how we will achieve this target and continue our fight against the nation’s biggest killer. ‘


High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. But if untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

More than one in four adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many won’t realise it.

The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.

Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. They’re both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

As a general guide:

  • high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher
  • ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
  • low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower
  • A blood pressure reading between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you don’t take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.

If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.

Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:

  • heart disease
  • heart attacks
  • strokes
  • heart failure
  • peripheral arterial disease
  • aortic aneurysms
  • kidney disease
  • vascular dementia

Source: NHS

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