Anatomy And Physiology

About Blood Pressure



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Blood pressure is a measure of how forcefully your blood is pressing against your artery walls with each heartbeat. Blood pressure is gauged by two numbers such as 120//80 which is spoken as one twenty over eighty. The first number is called systolic pressure and the second number if diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure is the one in the arteries when they are filled with blood and your heart is beating and the diastolic pressure is the one when your heart is resting between beats.

In the UK it is considered that your blood pressure is fairly normal if your top reading is between 110-140 and bottom reading is 70-90, although 120/80 is about the most average you can get and apparently this is the roughly the range to aim for.



HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

In general if you have high blood pressure you should be aware of it already and your physician should have given you advice on how to lower your pressure or have prescribed you with medication to aid you in the process.

High blood pressure is also known as "hypertension" and should be taken seriously. If hypertension is not monitored and reduced you increase your risk of having strokes, heart failure, heart attacks and is currently the most common cause of chronic renal failure.
High blood pressure also reduced your life expectancy. If you or anyone you know has hypertension please take it seriously and do take your doctor's advice on lowering your pressure.

There are certain things which you should avoid if you have hypertension such as excessive salt, try to cut down as much as you possibly can on your salt intake. Liquorice is also bad for people with high blood pressure. There are some factors which can increase the risk of getting high blood pressure such as:
* being overweight
* smoking
* being diabetic (type 1 or 2)
* not doing physical exercise
* drinking too much alcohol
* excessive salt intake
* excessive stress

If you cut down on the things that you know are bad for you (nowadays we mostly know what's bad for us), and try to do more exercise, we can decrease our chances of getting hypertension. From what I understand if you don't control your blood pressure to a sensible level you might not even realise you have it until it's too late and you have a heart attack or stroke and some of the symptoms of hypertension that could indicate a problem include: sudden sleepiness, confusion or severe headaches. You could even end up in a coma from hypertension!

From what I understand if you are from an Afro Caribbean or South East Asian background you have more chance of getting high blood pressure. It is not actually known exactly why this is the case but pretty much every doctor I've spoken to over the years at my surgery has said this is true as have all the doctors I know socially (friends or family members). I guess then that I need to be extra careful being diabetic already AND being of Indian origin! I have my blood pressure checked at least twice a year and it's always exactly in the middle of the range - which I'm told is good!



LOW BLOOD PRESSURE

Low blood pressure is also known as hypotension. In general it's not considered too dangerous to have low blood pressure but obviously it shouldn't be too low or investigations need to be made into the causes for this. Having low pressure means you have, to a certain extent, protection against factors which affect those with high blood pressure - such as not having too much salt intake.

Having low blood pressure can be beneficial to you in that it can reduce your chances of having heart disease or strokes.

You can tell if you have low pressure if your pressure is 90/60 or less but you should confirm this with your GP.

There aren't too many symptoms of low blood pressure as generally it's a good thing but it can cause dizziness when standing up or feeling faint. In extreme cases low blood pressure can cause fainting. If this happens you should get checked out by a doctor urgently as it could mean your pressure has dropped too low and is not being controlled.

Low blood pressure can be caused by several factors including being treated for high blood pressure (ironically this can bring your blood pressure down too far), diabetes, loss of blood due to injuries and at the start of pregnancy.



HAVE YOU BEEN TESTED LATELY?

Generally most of us have had our blood pressure checked at some time or other (if not regularly) by our own GPs. If you don't think you've been checked, do you recall having a band put around your upper arm by your doctor that looks similar to an armband worn when learning to swim? Air is then pumped into the armband till it feels rather tight and uncomfortable around your arm, much like someone is squeezing your arm and then the air is slowly released - during this air release your blood pressure rate is taken and noted down by your doctor.

If you have any issues with your blood pressure your doctor will be the person best able to tell you how to progress.



BLOOD PRESSURE AND DIABETES

People with diabetes should aim for a blood pressure rate in the region of 130/80 or lower. As diabetics are more prone to health issues such as heart attacks, kidney problems or strokes high blood pressure can be even more dangerous for diabetics than for non-diabetics. If you are diabetic you should have your blood pressure checked at least twice a year to monitor changes and to ensure your blood pressure has not become high.



NB: I am not claiming to be an expert in blood pressure - as with any health related opinions and articles on non medical websites you should consult with your own doctor or a specialist if you have any worries about anything you read here or anywhere else on the internet.

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