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Blood pressure and your heart
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Blood pressure and your heart

Understand blood pressure and how it can impact your heart health.

Key takeaways

  • High blood pressure is a primary risk factor for heart disease  
  • High blood pressure can be silent, so it’s important to get regular blood pressure checks 
  • You can reduce your chances of having high blood pressure and keep it under control through diet and exercise
  • In some cases, your doctor may prescribe medication to help lower high blood pressure.
2 min read

What is blood pressure? 

Blood pressure is the pressure of your blood on the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps it around your body. Your blood pressure will go up and down naturally throughout the day depending on what you are doing, especially if you are doing exercise. 

What does it mean to have high blood pressure?  

High blood pressure is when your blood pressure is permanently higher than normal. High blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for heart disease, especially heart attacks and strokes. 

It’s possible to have high blood pressure without knowing, so it’s important to keep an eye on it by getting your heart health checked regularly by a health professional.  

If you do have high blood pressure, you can help manage it with some simple changes to your lifestyle, such as eating a heart healthy diet and exercising more. Your doctor might also recommend some medications to keep it under control. 

Your blood pressure will go up and down naturally throughout the day depending on what you are doing, especially if you are doing exercise. 

What causes high blood pressure? 

There is no one specific cause of high blood pressure, but there are a number of things that can increase your chances of developing it, including: 

  • Family history 
  • Eating patterns (including salty foods) 
  • Alcohol intake 
  • Smoking 
  • Weight 
  • Physical activity and exercise levels. 

Your blood pressure can also go up temporarily due to stress, your emotional state, recent physical activity, caffeine consumption or even talking. 

What are the signs and symptoms of high blood pressure? 

There are no obvious signs or symptoms of high blood pressure, so you may not know you have it. That’s why it’s important to have regular check-ups to measure your blood pressure levels and learn how to manage it.  

Why is high blood pressure bad for you? 

There is a clear link between high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease, in particular having a heart attack or stroke. 

How is blood pressure measured and diagnosed? 

Your blood pressure is measured using a machine called a sphygmomanometer. It will usually have an inflatable rubber cuff that goes around the top half of your arm and is connected to a measuring unit. 

For manual sphygmomanometers, a small handheld air pump inflates the cuff. This is done by a machine for automated sphygmomanometers. Once it’s fully inflated, an air valve slowly releases the pressure in the cuff. 

This creates a reading with two numbers that are written down with one number on top of the other e.g. 120/80 mm Hg. 

  1. The top number is your systolic blood pressure (i.e. the amount of pressure in your arteries when your heart muscle contracts) 
  2. The bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure (i.e. your blood pressure when your heart muscle is between beats).  

What’s a healthy or ‘normal’ blood pressure reading? 

Your doctor will tell you what your ideal blood pressure should be, based on your medical history. 

A ‘normal’ blood pressure reading would be: 

  • Systolic blood pressure under 120 mm Hg  
  • Diastolic blood pressure under 80 mm Hg.  

Where can I get my blood pressure measured? 

You can have your blood pressure measured by a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacist, or at home (with an approved machine).  


Download our guide to measuring blood pressure at home

Download our blood pressure action plan

 

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