High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. Each time the heart beats, it pumps out blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure is at its highest when the heart beats, pumping the blood. This is called systolic pressure. When the heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls. This is the diastolic pressure. Blood pressure is always given as these two numbers, the systolic and diastolic pressures. When the two measurements are written down, the systolic pressure is the first number and the diastolic pressure is the second.
A blood pressure reading below 120/80 mmHg (millimetres of mercury) is considered normal. Pre-hypertension is blood pressure between 120 and 139 for the first number, or between 80 and 89 for the second number. If your blood pressure is in the pre-hypertension range, it is more likely that you will end up with high blood pressure unless you take action to prevent it. Hypertension or high blood pressure is a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher. You should consult your doctor if your blood pressure reading is higher than 160/95.
Some of the lifestyle factors which can impact on your blood pressure are:
- Excess weight – which forces the heart to pump harder.
- Lack of exercise.
- High salt intake.
- Heavy alcohol consumption – responsible for about 10% of high blood pressure cases.
High blood pressure is often called the silent killer because it usually has no symptoms. Some people may not find out they have it until they have trouble with their heart, brain or kidneys. Therefore it is important to have regular check-ups of your blood pressure. High blood pressure over a period of time can contribute to many illnesses, including heart attack, kidney failure or stroke.
Ways to reduce your blood pressure include:
- reducing your stress levels;
- minimising the fat (particularly saturated fat) in your diet;
- eating less salt;
- stop smoking;
- drinking less alcohol; and
- changing your lifestyle by losing weight and getting regular exercises.