Blood pressure is the pressure of your blood on the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps it around your body. It's a vital part of how our heart and circulation work. Your blood pressure naturally goes up and down, adjusting to your heart's needs depending on what you are doing. Various factors that will affect your blood pressure include breathing, exercise, sleep, emotional state and even your body position.
High blood pressure is medically known as hypertension and low blood pressure is known as hypotension. If your blood pressure remains high it can lead to serious problems like heart attack, stroke, heart failure or kidney disease if left untreated.
There are often no symptoms associated with high blood pressure. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked regularly by your doctor.
Measuring Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is usually measured by wrapping an inflatable pressure cuff around your upper arm. This cuff is part of a machine called a sphygmomanometer. It is best to measure your blood pressure when you are relaxed and sitting.
Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers, for example 120/80 (120 over 80) and is measured in units called millimetres of mercury (mmHg). The larger number, or systolic blood pressure, indicates the pressure in the arteries as the heart pumps out blood during each beat. The lower number, or diastolic blood pressure, indicates the pressure as the heart relaxes before the next beat.
The following chart outlines what is considered normal range and what is considered high range blood pressure:
mm Hg (upper no.)
mm Hg (lower no.)
|Normal||Less than 120||and||Less than 80|
|High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 1
|High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 2
|160 or higher||or||100 or higher|
(Emergency care needed)
|Higher than 180||or||Higher than 110|
You will be more at risk of suffering from high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease if you:
- are overweight.
- are physically inactive.
- have diabetes.
- have high cholesterol.
- are socially isolated.
- have depression.
Managing High Blood Pressure
Lifestyle changes are very important to help manage high blood pressure and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease if you:
- maintain a healthy weight.
- are physically active.
- limit your alcohol intake.
- quit smoking.
- decrease your salt/sodium intake.
- increase your potassium intake by eating a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, plain unsalted nuts and legumes.
Some people may also need medicine to manage high blood pressure, but it is still important for them to make lifestyle changes too.