Blood pressure (BP) is the measurement of pressure within your arteries as your blood is pushed out of your heart and pumped around your body. You need a certain amount of pressure to keep the blood flowing. When you have your blood pressure measured there are two sets of numbers involved e.g. 120/80. The top number which is called the systolic pressure which is the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats/contracts and forces blood around the circulation. The lowest pressure is the diastolic and this is the measurement of pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes in-between beats/contractions. These numbers are presented in units of millimetres of mercury or mmHg.
A healthy reading is 120/80 or less. You should aim to get your BP to this level. 140/90 is the level used to diagnose high blood pressure, what ever your age. If your readings are consistently raised at this level or above, then you need medical advice and treatment, to reduce your risk of stroke and heart attack. If there’s a history of hypertension (high blood pressure) in your family, then you are more at risk of developing it yourself. Usually people feel perfectly well with hypertension and it can go undiscovered quite easily until a Doctor or medical professional takes a routine reading. An extremely high reading that goes undiagnosed can cause symptoms of headache, dizziness and blurred vision. If left untreated then youre at a higher risk than most of heart attack, stroke, kidney damage and visual defects.From the age of 30 you should try and have it checked at yout doctor’s surgery at least every two years. If your family has a history of hypertension then you should have yours checked at least once a year.
The doctor will probably take a medical history asking questions about you and your family and you can expect to be examined too. If your condition is mild, the doctor may discuss ways of tackling the problem through changes in your diet and lifestyle. However, if your readings remain high, or remains high in spite of following the doctors advice, then you may require drug treatment.
Lifestyle Changes that can help
A healthy lifestyle can help to prevent hypertension. If your BP readings are only slightly raised then theres a lot you can do to help lower it through changes in your lifestyle and diet.
If you have hypertension, smoking increases your risk of stroke and heart problems. Its important to give up, your GP or practice nurse will be able to give you advice on how to do this. If you are overweight you are more at risk of developing hypertension. Try to control your weight by being more physically active and through healthy eating. Try to cut down on the amount of fat that you eat. Your GP or practice nurse may be able to help.
Regular physical activity is a good way to keep your weight down, lower your bp and strengthen your heart. Find something that you enjoy doing like walking, swimming, dancing or gardening. Some forms of exercise such as body building and pressups are not good for hypertension as they increase your internal pressure. Check with your doctor if you are unsure.
Drink less alcohol
Drinking heavily can raise your BP. Keep your weekly alcohol consumption to as moderate as possible.
Too much salt can raise your BP too, so try not to add too much salt to your food. Also try to cut down on very salty foods like salt fish and salt meat.