What Is Blood Pressure?
Everyone has blood pressure. Our blood pressure is simply the amount of work that our hearts need to do to pump our blood around the body. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is given as 2 figures. The first number records blood pressure when the pressure is at its highest i.e. when the heart muscle squeezes out the blood – this is called systolic pressure. The second number is when the heart relaxes and allows the blood to flow back into the heart – this is called diastolic pressure.
Why is blood pressure important?
The higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk of heart attack or stroke, heart failure, kidney failure and poor circulation in your legs. This is because high blood pressure causes silent damage to the blood vessels and heart. These problems can be avoided if your blood pressure is controlled.
Over half of all adults in Ireland over 45 years of age have high blood pressure. About 4 in every 5 men and 2 in every 3 women with high blood pressure are not being treated.
What’s the normal level?
The normal level of blood pressure is usually about 120 (systolic) over 80 (diastolic). High blood pressure is defined as ‘Hypertension’ and is when your levels are 140/90 mmHg and above. Low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60 mmHg and below.
If your blood pressure is 140 over 90 or higher you should discuss this reading with your doctor. Someone with high blood pressure may look and feel well, and rarely has any symptoms. The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured. If your blood pressure is more than 140 over 90, it’s recommended to have it monitored over 24-hours. This is carried out using a small device attached to a belt and linked to a blood pressure cuff on your arm. This gives your doctor many more readings to help decide if you need treatment.
How does 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) work?
Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring (ABPM) is when your blood pressure is being measured as you move around, living your normal daily life. It is normally carried over 24 hours. It uses a small digital blood pressure machine that is attached to a belt around your body and which is connected to a cuff around your upper arm. It small enough that you can go about your normal daily life and even sleep with it on.
By measuring your blood pressure at regular 30-60 minute intervals over 24 hours, your doctor will obtain clear pictures of how your blood pressure changes throughout the day. This will allow them to see how well your medicines are working, to make sure they are controlling your blood pressure through the day and night.
We at Brennan’s will carefully fit the device in-store and remove it the following day. We will then provide you with a detailed report showing the changes in your blood pressure over the 24-hour period. This report can then be brought to your GP to analyse in depth.
How to lower blood pressure
Your diet, exercise levels, weight and lifestyle choices have a real effect on your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, you can start lowering blood pressure today by implementing simple changes such as eating more healthily and being more active. Below are some tips to help you get started:
- Know your blood pressure level
The first step to improving your blood pressure is to know it. High blood pressure is best managed by you and your doctor. Make a note now to have your blood pressure checked or simply call into your pharmacist today for two minutes – it could save your life.
- Improve your diet and reduce your salt intake
Salt will increase your blood pressure. Reduce the amount of salt you add to your food at the table and eat less processed foods. Include more fresh vegetables, fruit and wholegrain cereals in your diet.
- Be more physically active
Long-term regular physical activity can lower your blood pressure and help to control your weight. Physical activity at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week is the recommended level to keep your body healthy and is also a great way to reduce stress and help you feel good.
- Aim for a healthy weight
Keep your weight at a level that is right for your height and build. If you are overweight, even losing 10% of excess weight can help lower your blood pressure.
- Drink less alcohol
Drinking large amounts of alcohol can increase blood pressure and may damage the liver and heart. If you do drink, spread your drinking over the week, keep some days alcohol-free. Do not drink more than the recommended upper limits: 17 standard drinks (SD) a week for men and 11 standard drinks a week for women.
1 pint = 2 standard drinks
1 small glass of wine (100 ml) = 1 standard drink
1 spirit – pub single measure = 1 standard drink
1 bottle of wine (750 ml) = 7 standard drinks
Smoking and high blood pressure are two serious factors that can cause a heart attack or stroke. You can greatly reduce this risk by stopping smoking. There are now many aids available to help you stop. Simply ask your pharmacist, family doctor, local HSE office or freephone the National Smokers’ Quitline 1800 201 203. If you are not ready to stop smoking, try to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke and make a plan to quit.
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