Under Pressure - Blood Pressure Explained

We all know that as we get older it is important to check our blood pressure. Most GP’s will consider it as a usual part of your 3 month check up, but what does it all mean and how can you reduce, stabilise or increase your blood pressure?

According to The Heart Foundation, your blood pressure is the pressure that the blood has against arterial walls. There are two parts to your blood pressure; systolic and diastolic. Systolic blood pressure (the top number on a reading) is when the heart contracts and blood is being pumped into the body away from the heart. Diastolic (the bottom number on a reading) is when the heart relaxes and fills up again.

Which is worse?

Neither, it depends on the condition and each has its own detrimental effects on the body. Optimal blood pressure is around 120/80 mmHg. 

High blood pressure or hypertension is often cause for concern and if you find that you have high blood pressure (anything over 140/90) you should consult your GP for further testing and diagnosis.

Hypertension can be caused by many factors including;

  • Stress
  • Lack of exercise/being unfit
  • High sodium intake
  • Genetic factors
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Being overweight.

It is important to tackle any concerns as soon as possible to avoid further health problems such as heart attack or stroke.

Low Blood pressure (around 90/60) is also known as hypotension and can still have adverse effects on your health. Having low blood pressure does not mean you are healthier than those with high blood pressure! When you have low blood pressure you are not getting enough blood that is oxygenated circulating around the body and heart, causing feelings of dizziness. This can be caused by many issues such as; Dehydration, being malnourished, blood loss, pregnancy and heart conditions.

Physical activity:

Including regular exercise in your lifestyle is one great way to lower high blood pressure. A study conducted in 2013, suggests that by including regular bouts of aerobic, resistance or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) significantly reduced rates of hypertension.

Diet: 

Reducing your sodium intake has been shown to decrease hypertension and increase rates of healthy blood pressure. Avoid pre-packaged foods, take away foods, foods with added salt and don’t add salt to your food. By making small changes such as this, you can make big changes to your health and wellbeing.

Top Tip: Add spices such as chili flakes, Cajun seasoning or paprika if you like a bit of flavour but are watching your salt intake.

Hydration:

Staying hydrated is so important to maintain a healthy blood pressure. By drinking around 1-2 litres of water per day, you are will decrease your changes of having a hypotension. Add some lemon or mint to your water bottle to keep it interesting and appealing.

Take home message: Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is an important part of staying healthy. Get yours checked regularly to ensure you are staying on track and seek medical advice if you are unsure about what to do next.