A number of health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and being overweight can all add up to cause more serious problems in the future.
You might hear these called ‘risk factors’ for conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
These problems are often linked, so the changes you can make to lower your blood pressure, such as getting active, stopping smoking and eating healthily, will all work together to keep your body healthy.
This is when there is too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. It’s caused by a number of things including high blood pressure, an unhealthy diet which includes foods that are high in saturated fat, and smoking. High cholesterol can lead to a build-up of fat in the arteries, making them stiff and narrow. This is called atherosclerosis, and can lead to heart disease, heart attacks and stroke. You can lower your blood cholesterol with a healthy lifestyle and medications if you need them.
Being overweight or obese
It is very common to be overweight or obese in the UK, around a quarter of adults are obese. It can lead to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even some cancers, as well as affecting your quality of life and your mood. It’s generally caused by eating and drinking more calories than you burn off, and, although it takes time, losing just 3% or your body weight can make a real difference to your health. Find out more.
This is where your blood sugar levels are too high because you are starting to become resistant to the hormone insulin, which is responsible for controlling blood sugar levels. It’s caused by a lifestyle which includes a lack of physical activity, being overweight and an unhealthy diet. Eventually, your body can become completely resistant to insulin or stop producing insulin altogether, this is type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance can be reversed with healthy changes to your lifestyle.
Type 2 diabetes
This is when your body stops making the hormone insulin or becomes resistant to it, meaning your blood sugar levels are too high – as insulin controls blood sugar levels. Untreated, this can lead to serious problems including kidney disease and sight problems. Having high blood pressure and diabetes together raises your risk of having a stroke or heart attack than either one alone.
You can prevent diabetes, avoid medications and even reverse diabetes with a healthy lifestyle and by losing weight. Learn more about diabetes.
This is the combination of high blood pressure, diabetes and being overweight. They can all affect the blood vessels, so they put you at a much high risk of problems that involve the blood vessels including heart disease and stroke. You can prevent or even reverse the metabolic syndrome with healthy changes to your lifestyle.
Your blood pressure and your kidneys can affect each other. High blood pressure can damage your kidneys and kidney damage can raise your blood pressure. This means kidney problems can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke as well as kidney failure. Looking after your blood pressure will help to keep your kidneys healthy.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a type of irregular heartbeat where the heart beats very fast or with an irregular rhythm. It’s quite common in the UK, and it’s quite common to have high blood pressure at the same time. Both raise your risk of having stroke but don’t usually have any obvious symptoms, so finding out if you have AF can be an important step in preventing a stroke.
Find out how healthy you are
You can find out if you have any of the health problems or risk factors on this page with these quick and easy health checks.
- Get a blood pressure check. The only way to know your numbers is to get your blood pressure measured.
- Take the Heart Age Test. This online calculator estimates the age of your heart compared to your actual age.
- Get an NHS Health Check. These are free and available to adults aged 40-74 in England. Find out what’s available near you.
- Find out if you’re at risk of type 2 diabetes. This simple questionnaire calculates your risk of diabetes.
- This BMI calculator. This will help you find out if you’re overweight or in the healthy range.
- Visit your GP. Ask them if you might be at risk of any of these health problems and what tests are available.
- Visit your pharmacy. Some pharmacies offer NHS health checks and blood pressure checks.
How can you prevent a heart attack or stroke?