Blood pressure is the pressure of blood on the walls of the arteries as your heart pumps blood around your body. It changes to meet your body’s needs and can depend on factors such as body temperature, exercise, sleep, posture and emotional state.
Blood pressure measures two numbers: a systolic number and a diastolic number, for example 120 over 80 (120/80). The systolic number — in this case 120 — is a measure of the pressure in the arteries as the heart beats. This is always the higher number, as the heart is working to pump the blood. The diastolic number – 80 – is a measure of the pressure as the heart relaxes between beats. 120/80 is considered to be normal adult blood pressure.
Healthy blood pressure is important, because high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is a risk factor for a number of serious health conditions including coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, vision loss, and kidney damage.
What is the normal blood pressure range?
Whether your blood pressure is healthy will depend on your personal circumstances, including your general wellbeing and any other health conditions you may have. However, as a general guide, the Heart Foundation defines different blood pressure ranges as follows:
- Low — 90 or lower / 60 or lower
- Optimal — lower than 120/ lower than 80
- Normal — 120-129 / 80-84
- High-normal — 130-139 / 85-89
- High —140 / 90 or higher
- Very high — 180 /110 or higher
There are normally no symptoms associated with high blood pressure, which is why it’s important to have it checked regularly. How frequently you have it checked will depend on your circumstances and any risk factors you have for heart disease.
For most people, the cause of high blood pressure is unknown. However, there are a number of factors which may increase your risk. Some of these are associated with an unhealthy lifestyle including:
- little or no exercise
- being overweight
- a diet high in salt
- high alcohol consumption
Other factors which can contribute include:
- a family history of high blood pressure
- high blood cholesterol
- kidney disease
- some medications
Sometimes, high blood pressure can be normalised by making lifestyle changes including getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and losing weight. However, in some cases, lifestyle changes may not be enough and it might be necessary to take medication to lower your blood pressure.
If you have low blood pressure (hypotension), you may experience any of the following symptoms:
- light-headedness, when standing from a sitting or lying position
- unsteadiness, dizziness or fainting
- blurred vision
Even some very fit people may have lower blood pressure than normal. However, low blood pressure can also be caused by:
- feeling overheated
- blood loss or blood donation
- drugs or alcohol
- illness or pain
- an allergic reaction
- nutritional deficiencies
- other medical conditions, including heart conditions
Treatment for low blood pressure usually involves avoiding some of the above triggers. However, it’s worth visiting your doctor to find out if there is an underlying cause, and whether you need treatment.
Maintain a healthy blood pressure
Hypertension can pose a serious risk to your health, which is why it’s important to have it checked, and to follow any treatment plan your doctor recommends. In some cases, medication may be required to maintain a healthy blood pressure. However, it’s also important to maintain a healthy blood pressure by introducing lifestyle measures such as:
- Physical activity — being moderately active for 30-45 minutes each day, five or more days of the week can help reduce your risk of heart disease and heart attacks1.
- Healthy weight — achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- Diet — enjoy a wide range of foods from the five food groups, and limit salt intake
- Alcohol — reduce alcohol consumption to no more than two standard drinks on any day
- Quit smoking – you may consider the Heart Foundation’s action plan to assist with this
Having regular blood pressure checks is an important part of maintaining a healthy blood pressure and looking after your overall health. At TerryWhite Chemmart, we can help you keep track of your health with our Blood Pressure Checks.
General advice only – this information should not replace the information provided to you by your health care professional. If symptoms are severe or persist, please speak to your health care professional. Information current as of date of publishing.