Normal Blood Pressure
What is blood pressure?
Most patients are familiar with the concept of blood pressure and understand that it is important to maintain a healthy blood pressure reading. But what is blood pressure and how can we adjust our lifestyles to maintain it at the right level?
Blood pressure is a measure of how efficiently the heart is pumping blood around the body.
When the heart pumps, it distributes oxygen-rich blood to every part of the body. As the blood presses on the insides of blood vessels during pumping, it creates pressure. If blood pressure is too high, strain is put on the heart and arteries, and the risk of serious health complications increases.
If blood pressure is too low, you may be at risk of fainting, which can cause injury as a result of falls.
What is normal blood pressure?
Blood pressure is read using two numbers: a top number (systolic) and a bottom number (diastolic). Normal blood pressure is less than 120 over 80, or 120/80.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is 140/90 or higher, while low blood pressure (hypotension) is 90/60 or lower.
Only one of the two numbers needs to be higher or lower to be considered abnormal; for example, a reading of 110/90 would indicate high blood pressure because the diastolic number is over 80.
Normal blood pressure by age
As people age, changes in the structure of their arteries often caused by an unhealthy lifestyle cause blood pressure to increase. However, medical experts believe that, even for older generations, blood pressure should be maintained within a normal range in order to prevent serious health complications such as stroke and heart failure, with a systolic pressure of less than 130 and a diastolic pressure of under 80.
Recent changes to medical guidelines mean that older patients with a blood pressure reading above 130/80 may be regarded as suffering from hypertension, or pre-hypertension, although medication may not be routinely given if lifestyle changes can be made to bring the blood pressure back within a normal range.
How to take care of your blood pressure
The key to maintaining normal blood pressure and preventing hypertension is to enjoy a healthy lifestyle focusing on achieving a balanced diet, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, taking regular exercise and reducing salt intake.
A healthy diet should include plentiful fruit and vegetables that are naturally low in salt and fat and high in fibre. Salt is proven to increase blood pressure and should be limited to less than 6g per day; if you add salt when cooking, gradually reduce this while your taste buds adapt and watch out for hidden salt, particularly in processed foods.
If you are overweight, your heart must work harder to pump blood around your body, which can cause an increase in blood pressure. Achieving a healthy weight will reduce the strain on your heart and decrease the risk of high blood pressure. Exercise, particularly aerobic activity such as brisk walking or swimming, will not only keep your heart in good shape but will also support your efforts to lose weight.
Stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can all have a negative effect on blood pressure, so reducing or even eliminating these entirely is an effective way to prevent hypertension. For example, the narrowing of arteries caused by smoking prevents blood from circulating efficiently and causes the heart of work harder, while drinking alcohol is also associated with hypertension as well as causing weight gain.
Living a healthy lifestyle will help to maintain normal blood pressure but will also provide many other benefits for your overall health and wellbeing.
If changes to your lifestyle does not help to improve your blood pressure, a medical professional may advise on high blood pressure treatment in order to control your blood pressure.