When you have your blood pressure tested it can be difficult to understand the results and how they are going to affect you. We have created the following guide to help you understand what blood pressure is, how to identify if you are in a risk category and how you can maintain a healthy blood pressure.
What is Blood Pressure?
When your heart beats it is pumping blood around your body and supplying you with oxygen and energy. Blood pressure is the measure of how hard your blood is pushing against the sides of your blood vessels as it flows around your body. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) puts extra strain on your arteries and can lead to many health problems. These include stroke, heart attack, coronary heart disease, kidney disease and dementia. Low blood pressure (also known as hypotension) is generally not a concern. However sometimes there can be issues if your blood level becomes unnaturally low, such as dizziness or fainting.
Blood pressure is measured in ‘millimetres of mercury’ (mmHg) and will be made up of two numbers. The first number is your Systolic blood pressure, this is the highest your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats. The second number is the diastolic blood pressure. This is the lowest level your blood pressure drops to between beats. Ideally your blood pressure should be should be below 140/90mmHg.
What is Healthy Blood Pressure?
The systolic blood pressure (the first number, the highest level when your heart beats) should ideally be between 90 and 140. The diastolic blood pressure (the second number, the lowest level when your heart rests between beats) should be between 60 and 90.
Why you should monitor your Blood Pressure
It is estimated by the British Heart Foundation that as many as 7 million people in the UK are living with undiagnosed high blood pressure, this is more than 1 in 4 adults. The symptoms for high blood pressure are subtle and can easily be overlooked. The only way to know your blood pressure is to test it. You should particularly pay attention to this if you are overweight, elderly, have diabetes, are a smoker, are a heavy drinker or if you have a family history of high blood pressure.
The British Heart Foundation recommend that anyone over 40 has a health check with their GP or nurse practitioner. This includes a blood pressure test. You can measure your blood pressure at home or visit your GP if you would prefer them to check this. If you have any concerns with your blood pressure please visit your local GP.
How to Lower Your Blood Pressure
By keeping your blood pressure low you can reduce the chance of heart attack or stroke. You can lower your blood pressure by having a healthy diet and exercising regularly. A healthy balanced diet should include a variety of fruit and vegetables and be low in fat, sugar, salt and alcohol. Low calories or fad diets are not recommended as your body will not get the required nutrients for you to function efficiently, and you may find you feel lethargic or faint. Your GP may also prescribe medication to reduce your blood pressure.
You don’t have to be an athlete to increase your exercise – simple changes like walking rather than driving, taking the stairs rather than the lift or doing a 15 minute work-out will increase your fitness. There are also lots of fitness activates you can do, such as joining a local club, bowling, or swimming.
The independent charity Drinkaware are working to lower alcohol misuse and harm in the UK. They have been researching the effects of alcohol consumption and advise warn that one of negative health effects from excessive alcohol consumption is hypertension (high blood pressure). Drinkaware recommended we consume less than 14 units a week (spread through out) and have several drink free days. They note that excessive caffeine, lack of exercise and junk food can also lead to high blood pressure. Drinkaware suggest you should aim to cut down if you have more than 4 cups of tea, coffee (or another caffeinated drink) per day. If you are concerned about your blood pressure please visit your GP for a check-up. If needed they can prescribe medication to reduce your blood pressure.
- https://www.stroke.org.uk/webform/order-your-free-blood-pressure-information-pack – Order your free blood pressure information pack.