Blood pressure is the force or pressure exerted by the heart in pumping blood. It also describes the pressure of blood in your arteries.
Blood pressure is measured with two readings - a systolic reading and a diastolic reading eg 120/80. The top reading (systolic) describes the blood pressure that is reached when your heart contracts to pump blood out of the heart chambers. You can think of it as like the level of the sea when a wave rises. The lower reading (diastolic) describes the blood pressure when the heart is relaxed, which is like when the wave recedes.
A problem occurs when your blood pressure high and the force on your heart to pump blood around the body becomes too much. Your heart is like any other muscle and if it has to work too hard it begins to cause problems. High blood pressure can damage arteries, making it easier for them to become blocked - and if this happens in an artery to the brain, it can cause a stroke.
Blood pressure can be easily measured using a sphygmomanometer. They give a systolic reading, and a diastolic reading, expressed as 120/80 for example. These devices are fairly common now and you can even buy one for home use, although always consult a doctor. The serious effects of high blood pressure usually develop only after it has been high for a number of years - in the meantime, there are no symptoms to warn you. But regular checks mean it's possible to detect rising blood pressure before it does any damage. Regular checks are especially important for people who have a family history of high blood pressure.
Blood pressure readings:
• Low blood pressure: less than 120/80 (you may experience fainting and diziness, especially when changing height)
• Normal blood pressure: 120/80
• High / normal blood pressure: between 120/80 and 140/90
• High blood pressure or Hypertension: 140/90 (usually medication is prescribed at these levels)
• Very high blood pressure: 180/110 or above (please seek medical advice immediately)
The most important thing you can do to prevent or reduce high blood pressure is by making several lifestyle changes:
• Weight:- losing weight will help reduce your blood pressure. Weight loss can be achieved with the correct combination of good nutrition and exercise, so try and eat healthy foods and get moving! Not sure what to do? Then contact us for more information on eating healthy foods for weight loss and starting a fitness program. Also see below how exercise helps reduce high blood pressure.
• Regular exercise:- it is very important for both weight loss and preventing high blood pressure to be active and regularly exercising. Thanks to cars and labour saving gadgets, we've become used to thinking that movement is an inconvenience. But any opportunity to be active or exercise, whether it's walking to the shops, weeding the garden, doing housework or taking the stairs instead of the lift is a way of improving health. More activity and exercise means a stronger and healthier cardiovascular system and lower blood pressure.
• Salt:- too much salt in the diet may also contribute to high blood pressure. Most people in Australia eat far more salt than they need - this is because many foods, especially fast foods, snack foods and processed foods from the supermarket contain a lot of salt. But it's not difficult to eat less salt if you eat more fresh food and choose products labelled "low salt or "no added salt". If you have high blood pressure don't add salt at the table and reduce the amount you use in cooking. If you're used to adding a lot of salt, try cutting down the amount you use gradually. Add extra flavour by using more herbs, spices, lemon juice, garlic, fresh ginger or chilli.
• Smoking:- although smoking doesn't directly increase blood pressure it can add to the harm caused by high blood pressure, and increase the risk of stroke and heart disease as well as many other health problems. Once you stop smoking this extra harm is soon reduced and you'll have less risk of health problems as well as high blood pressure.
• Alcohol:- too much alcohol contributes to high blood pressure. However there's evidence that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol - one to two standard drinks a day - may help prevent diseases like stroke and heart disease. Alcohol is a vasodilator (it opens up your veins) which for a limited time reduces your blood pressure. However, too much alcohol will increase blood pressure because of the excess calories you take in leads to weight gain and higher blood pressure. See our article on alcohol and weight loss.
To find out more about more about high blood pressure, how to reduce high blood pressure, or blood pressure treatment contact us!