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Your Health: Blood Pressure

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure (BP) is the pressure against artery walls when blood is pumped out of your heart into the arteries. Arteries are flexible, elastic tubes which stretch & recoil to push blood around the body.

Blood pressure measurement

When blood pressure is checked, two measurements are taken. They will be written similar to this: 120/80mmHg (120 over 80).

The first or top measurement is called systolic and is the reading taken when pressure in the arteries is at its highest.

The second or bottom measurement is called diastolic and is when the pressure in the arteries is at its lowest.

What are healthy numbers?

As a general guide, a resting blood pressure (RBP) reading over 90/60 but under 120/80 is considered normal. If it’s higher than 120/80 then latest guidelines advise you try and reduce your BP – the higher the number, the more your health is at risk. A consistent clinical reading of 140/90 or higher, is considered high blood pressure (hypertension). If your RBP is consistently 135/85 or above when measured at home, NHS guidelines advise you inform your GP.

It’s a good habit to check your BP regularly at home whatever your norm is, using a digital clinically validated BP monitor*. 

High blood pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension* is mostly symptomless and for this reason it is called a ‘silent killer’ because it increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. However, if blood pressure is extremely high, some symptoms may include: headaches, vision problems, fatigue, nosebleeds, pounding in the neck, chest & ears or breathlessness. It’s important to visit your GP straight away if you have any of those symptoms.

Even if you don’t have symptoms, but your BP is above 120/80, you should work at lowering it.

Left ventricular hypertrophy can develop in response to different factors such as a heart condition and it can develop with untreated high blood pressure too. High blood pressure makes the heart work harder and the walls of the main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, start to thicken and lose their elasticity, making the heart become enlarged and pumping efficiency is lost. In some instances an enlarged heart can be treated. For more information on this please visit Blood Pressure UK.

Low blood pressure

Low blood pressure, or hypotension, is when your blood pressure is 90/60 or below. This does not necessarily mean that there is a problem and its true to say everyone gets a small drop in their blood pressure from time to time; however, it can be the result of another illness/condition such as heart disease or a side effect of certain herbal medicines or prescribed medications i.e. depression medications. Most people with low blood pressure don’t have any noticeable symptoms but sometimes it can cause dizziness and fainting. If this is happening to you then it is important that you see your GP. 

Fluctuations in blood pressure

Blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day because of rest, activity, illness, stress/anxiety, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, when/what you eat e.g. salty/heavy meals, even whether you have a full bladder or not!

Some causes of high blood pressure

  • Kidney disease
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Too much salt intake
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight/obese
  • Diabetes 1 and 2
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Drinking too much caffeine
  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Age – BP can rise as you get older
  • Some prescribed & over the counter medications, also herbal & recreational

How to lower blood pressure

Did you know

More than 1 in 4 people in the England have diagnosed high BP – many more go undiagnosed

At least half of heart attack & strokes are associated with high BP & it is a major risk factor for chronic kidney disease, heart failure & dementia

People with low BP generally tend to live longer than those with high, or even normal, BP

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Alcolhol Category image of wine being poured into glasses
cardiovascular category image with a hand holding a landscape mobile shape piece of glass with a red heart and white pulse graph
Diabetes
Exercise category image of a silhouette of a woman running with background stunning orange sunset
Food category image of a plate of cooked salmon with a dressed salad and wedge of lemon
smoking category image showing smoke with a black background