Each time your heart pumps out blood, it creates a force that pushes against the walls of your arteries (blood vessels). Like your hand pushing down on your thigh, this force is called pressure.
When blood pressure is high, it increases the risk of damage to your arteries, in particular, thickening or weakening the artery walls. The danger of a thickened artery wall, for example, is reduced blood flow, which can lead to heart disease and stroke (brain damage).
How much is ‘high’?
More than 1 in 3 Australian adults has high blood pressure (hypertension). However, many don’t realise it, because it often doesn’t cause symptoms.
High blood pressure may be first discovered when measured by your doctor using a device called a sphygmomanometer. It involves an inflated cuff wrapped around your arm, which measures the pressure in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
The sphygmomanometer records two numbers – the highest is for your heart pumping blood (systolic pressure) and lowest is when your heart relaxes after a pump (diastolic pressure).
The following are the main blood pressure categories. Keep in mind that your ideal blood pressure may vary based on your circumstances such as your age, medical history and medications.
Normal <120/80 mmHg
Normal to High 120/80 – 140/90 mmHg
High 140/90 – 180/110 mmHg
Very High >180/110 mmHg
In addition to your genetics, a number of lifestyle factors are commonly associated with high blood pressure including: smoking, high blood cholesterol, overweight, physical inactivity, high salt intake, diabetes and excessive alcohol.
Reducing high blood pressure involves managing the above factors. The doctors at Southgate Medical Centre can provide advice and treatments for each one that affects you. Blood pressure lowering medications may also be recommended after assessing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
More information, visit the Heart Foundation online www.heartfoundation.org.au
Southgate Medical Centre
3 Southgate Ave