Why test blood pressure?Testing blood pressure is a good indication of how your heart, kidneys and blood vessels are traveling. High blood pressure can go undetected if not tested regularly. Unlike low blood pressure, there are no obvious symptoms with high blood pressure and thus the likelihood of damaging many vital organs is increased.
If high blood pressure goes undiagnosed or is left untreated, damage can occur to the vessels supplying the brain, eyes, heart and kidneys as well as other arteries throughout the body. There is also an increased risk of having a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and blindness.
What does testing blood pressure measure?The heart pumps blood around the body through arteries and veins. Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood on the artery wall. Blood pressure has a peak and a trough. With each heart beat the pressure peaks (the blood is pushed from the heart to the arteries), this is known as the Systolic Blood Pressure. As the heart relaxes, the pressure drops and this is the Diastolic Blood Pressure.
What is considered normal blood pressure?Blood pressure varies, and that variance can increase or reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness or damage to other arteries. Table 1 outlines the blood pressure range (sourced from the National Heart Foundation ) and the risk to disease.
Table 1.Blood Pressure Ranges Systolic Blood Pressure Diastolic Blood Pressure Risk Normal < 120mmHg < 80mmHG Low risk High – Normal 120-140mmHg 80-90mmHg Low risk High > 140mmHg > 90mmHg Moderate risk Very high > 180mmHg > 110mmHg High risk
Blood pressure Ranges - National Heart Foundation of Australia: Blood Pressure Information Sheet Dec 2003.
How to lower blood pressure?To help maintain or lower blood pressure:
1)Ensure regular physical activity
2)Maintain a healthy weight,
3)Limit alcohol intake,
4)Eating food with less fat and salt
5)learn relaxation skills.
However, Hypertension (high risk blood pressure) can be treated by medication and/or through lifestyle behaviours. It depends on the severity of the hypertension. Typically treatment will include a combination of medication and lifestyle changes with a focus on nutrition, physical activity, weight management and stress management.
For more information on cardiovascular health go to www.lifestylemedicine.net.au.