Around 25% of adults in the UK are thought to suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension). Blood pressure readings are determined by measuring and comparing pressure when the heart beats (systolic blood pressure) and when it is at rest (diastolic).
You are considered to have high blood pressure if you’re reading is 140/90 (systolic/diastolic) or higher.
If you are diagnosed with hypertension you are at greater risk of suffering a cardiac condition such as coronary heart disease, heart attack (myocardial infarction.), stroke (cerebrovascular accident) and peripheral arterial disease. High blood pressure is also associated with Alzheimer’s Disease (dementia) and kidney disease. Hypertension can be effectively managed but not cured.
Typically hypertension is asymptomatic, meaning it is rare for the condition to display symptoms. It is usually only diagnosed following a blood pressure test.
A number of lifestyle factors are associated with hypertension. These include excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking, failing to exercise regularly, obesity and poor diet high in salt and low in fruit and vegetables. If you are deprived of sleep for lengthy periods this also increases your risk of suffering from high blood pressure.Others factors include a family history of the condition and simply ageing. People of Afro-Caribbean and South Asian descent are also at greater risk.
You can take steps to minimise the risk of developing hypertension or reducing your blood pressure. These include not smoking, drinking alcohol only within recommended levels, following a well-balanced diet, limiting your caffeine consumption and keeping physically fit and at a healthy weight through regular exercise.
Anyone diagnosed with or considered at risk of developing hypertension will be advised to pursue a healthy lifestyle which may involve making changes to what you eat, drink and how active you are. Many private health insurers can assist in making those changes by offering access to wellbeing programmes which provide expert advice online or through helplines staffed by GPs or nurses.
Many of these programmes also offer discounted access to gyms and leisure facilities to encourage you to engage in frequent exercise. Aviva, AXA PPP, BUPA and Vitality are among those who offer policies incorporating wellbeing programmes.
Hypertension is often but not always treated through one or a combination of four types of medications. Which medicine is right for you will depend upon your blood pressure reading and risk of developing a serious cardiac condition. These would usually be prescribed by the NHS.
However it is possible that some private health insurance policies will enable prescription of medicines which are not available through the NHS due to their cost or because they have not been approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence or the Scottish Medicines Consortium.
Before taking out a health insurance policy you should carefully check what it covers and any limits or restrictions on the treatments you may claim for.
Chase Templeton’s dedicated individual private health insurance experts would be pleased to advise you.