About Your Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in the arteries as the heart pumps it around the body. The arteries are little elastic tubes which expand and stretch as blood is pumped through them. These arteries relax in between the heart beats.
The blood flow and blood pressure surge each time the heart contracts. The peak pressure is called the systolic pressure. The pressure falls as the heart relaxes to refill. This lower pressure is called the diastolic pressure. When blood pressure is taken, both of these measurements are recorded.
The first (or top) measurement is the systolic (see graphic on the left), and the second (or bottom) measurement is the diastolic (see graphic on the right).
Blood pressure can be influenced by several factors, some of which are outside our control, such as race, genetic factors and age. There are, however, some controllable factors such as obesity, activity level, stress and a number of dietary factors.
Blood pressure varies from moment to moment. It can change depending on whether you are standing, sitting or lying down. Other things that can affect it include exercise, anxiety, eating, the time of the day and many other factors.
Often the first time a patient sees a new doctor, their blood pressure will be raised, but as they get to know the doctor better, and feel more at ease, the readings will, on average, be lower. All of which leads us to ask...
What is Normal Blood Pressure?
The average systolic reading is 120 or less. The average diastolic reading is 80 or less. However, the occasional reading greater than 140/90 does not necessarily mean that you have High Blood Pressure. However, it is advised that you visit your doctor for it to be checked out.
Because of this variation in blood pressure, it is essential that blood pressure is measured on more than one occasion to get the best assessment of an individual's average blood pressure. In some cases doctors may suggest that the individual uses one of the digital machines to monitor their own blood pressure in the relaxed atmosphere of their own homes.
Prolonged high blood pressure damages blood vessels and organs in the body. Conditions most closely linked with high blood pressure include:-
- Coronary heart disease (including angina pectoris, myocardial infarction and sudden death)
- Kidney failure
- Heart failure.
What can we do about High Blood Pressure?
Firstly, see your medical advisor, follow the advice given, then include the following in your treatment.
- Cut down your salt intake. Westerners use too much salt. Forget the take-aways, add minimal salt to your cooking to maintain its flavour and remove the salt cellar from the table.
- Increase your potassium intake, by increasing the fruits and vegetables in your diet.
- Watch your weight. By sensible eating and exercise, get down to the recommended weight for your height, and your correct waist:hip ratio (see the section on weight management). Being overweight is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure.
- Cut the alcohol. Three or more alcoholic drinks (males) can produce a risk factor of high blood pressure up to three times greater than in non-drinkers. The higher the consumption, the greater the risk.
(Source: "Heart Health Resource Manual" by the National Heart Foundation of Australia.)
Why not check out the Free Health Course that is available? One lesson is entitled "Healthy Heart, Healthy Bones".