High blood pressure, or hypertension, refers to the pressure of the blood pumping in your arteries being higher than normal. The condition is one of several risk factors that can increase your chance of developing serious health conditions such as kidney disease, heart disease and stroke. Hypertension affects about one in seven adults in Australia. It often doesn't produce any symptoms or warning signs, so you need to check it regularly.


WHAT IS BLOOD PRESSURE?

 

Blood pressure measures the force of the blood pushing on the walls of the arteries which carry blood from your heart to your brain and the rest of your body. It naturally increases when you're physically active but when it's constantly high, it's termed hypertension and means your heart is being overworked.

 

Blood pressure reading consists of two numbers:


* Systolic blood pressure - the pressure against the arteries when the heart beats while pumping blood. Normally between 110 and 130mmHg.
* Diastolic blood pressure - the pressure against the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats and fills with blood. Normally between 70 and 80mmHg.

 

There is no ‘ideal’ blood pressure reading. The following classification for clinic blood pressures in adults can be used as a guide:


* Normal blood pressure – generally less than 120/80
* High–normal (the higher range of normal) – between 120/80 and 139/89
* Mild high blood pressure – between 140/90 and 159/99
* Moderate high blood pressure – between 160/100 and 179/109
* Severe high blood pressure – equal to or more than 180/110.

 

Blood pressure changes to meet your body’s needs. If a reading is high, your doctor may measure your blood pressure again on several separate occasions to confirm the level. Your doctor may also recommend that you measure your blood pressure at home or have a 24-hour recording with a monitor device.

 

WHO DOES HIGH BLOOD PRESSUE AFFECT?

 

Hypertension affects around one in seven adult Australians. There is no single cause for heart disease, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing it. Risk factors linked to high blood pressure include:


* Smoking
* High alcohol consumption
* Obesity
* Being inactive
* Poor diet e.g. high levels of saturated fat in the diet
* Family history of high blood pressure
* Certain medical conditions such as kidney disease and diabetes
* Some medicines, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, combined contraceptive pill, and some nasal sprays/drops

 

Blood pressure also tends to rise as we age due to the walls of the larger arteries losing their elasticity and becoming rigid. Usually the systolic blood pressure rises while diastolic blood pressure tends to fall. The higher systolic pressure is important because it can further accelerate the rigidity of the arteries. This state is referred to as ‘isolated systolic hypertension’. Although these changes are due to ageing, this is not a normal state and may need medication to control the systolic pressures.

 

HOW TO PREVENT AND TREAT BLOOD PRESSURE?

 

Hypertension usually does not produce any symptoms, because the organs of the body can resist high blood pressure for a long time. This means most people don’t even realise they have it. That’s why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly to make sure it isn’t creeping up. You can check your blood pressure at the doctors or buy automatic blood pressure monitors to measure it yoruself at home, such as Omron HEM-7200 Blood Pressure Monitor and Microlife 3API-3E Talking Blood Pressure Monitor.

 

Your lifestyle is very important in helping you to manage high blood pressure and its associated risks. Two out of five people can successfully lower their blood pressure by making adjustments to their lifestyle. Some healthy lifestyle choices include:


* Maintain your weight within the healthy range.
* Eat a high-fibre, low-fat and low-salt diet  
* Give up smoking.
* Limit alcohol consumption.
* Exercise regularly (Note: some specific types of exercises should be avoided by people with high blood pressure. * These include body presses and lifting heavy weights. Ask your health professional for more information)

 

Many people with high blood pressure will need to take medicines for the long-term to help lower it. Many of these work by relaxing and widening the walls of the blood vessels. It is important to take any blood pressure medicine exactly as prescribed. Do not stop taking it or change the dose without talking to your doctor first.