What is blood pressure?
Blood is continually being pumped through your body by your heart, travelling via a series of arteries. While it is travelling, it naturally places a stress on the walls of these arteries, and blood pressure is the numerical value given to this stress.
Your blood pressure changes all the time to meet your body’s needs. It is affected by a wide variety of factors from your breathing pattern, body position and emotional state to whether you are exercising or sleeping.
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers – the systolic pressure (as your heart beats) over the diastolic pressure (your heart relaxing between beats). Normal blood pressure is approximately 120 mmHg systolic over 80 mmHg diastolic (written 120/80). Anything above this is considered to be high, or hypertensive, blood pressure. High blood pressure is a very serious condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and many other health problems.
Hypotension (low blood pressure)
Conversely, hypotension, or low blood pressure, occurs when blood pressure during and after each heartbeat is much lower than normal. This means that your heart, brain and other parts of your body do not get enough blood or oxygen and you can feel dizzy, faint and lightheaded. Usually, a reading below 110/70 is considered low. Low blood pressure can usually be treated successfully, but can sometimes be an indicator of more sinister issues like diabetes, arrhythmia, dehydration and even heart failure. If you find that your blood pressure is lower than normal, don’t ignore it – speak to your healthcare provider and have them give you the all clear.
Keeping your blood pressure in check
Blood pressure is measured by an instrument named a sphygmomanometer. These are available for purchase so that you can easily monitor your blood pressure at home. Alternatively, have your doctor measure your blood pressure regularly. If your blood pressure is considered normal, you have no other risk factors for cardiovascular disease and no family history of high blood pressure, a check every one or two years is sufficient.
If you are considered at risk of heart disease or have a family history of high blood pressure, it is important to have your blood pressure checked more frequently. Consult with your doctor about how often you should have yours examined. Alternatively, regularly monitoring your own blood pressure with a sphygmomanometer is not nearly as complicated as the name suggests. Simply consult with your healthcare provider for more information about where to purchase one and how to use it.
Keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level is usually a simple matter of making healthier lifestyle choices. Regular exercise, lowering your stress through activities like yoga and meditation and eating the right kinds of foods will all contribute to lowering your blood pressure – and result in a healthier heart and body.