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Blood Pressure: Know Your Numbers

This week is ‘Know your numbers’ week! It raises the awareness of monitoring your blood pressure and how to combat high blood pressure.

When your heart beats, it pumps blood around your body to give it the energy and oxygen it needs. As the blood moves, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels. The strength of this pushing is your blood pressure. Every blood pressure reading consists of two numbers, shown as one number on top of the other. The first number is your systolic blood pressure. The systolic pressure is the force at which your heart pumps blood around the body. It measures the highest level of your blood pressure, this is when your heart beats and contracts to pump blood through your arteries. The second number is your diastolic blood pressure. It is the resistance to the blood flow in the vessels, this is when your heart relaxes between beats.

An ideal blood pressure is 120/80mmHg (milligrams of mercury!). Anything higher than 140/90mmHg is considered to be high blood pressure, it can also be referred to as hypertension. Over 6 million people in the UK have high blood pressure and don’t know about it. This is very dangerous. If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels and heart which leads to strain on your other organs such as the brain and kidneys. Your arteries can lose their stretch causing them to stiffen and become narrow, making them unable to cope with the high pressure within. The narrowing can also make it easier for fatty substances to stick to the inner walls of the arteries, putting you at risk of atherosclerosis and fatty substance breaking off and blocking the arteries. High blood pressure also increases your risk of developing heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. So it is very important to monitor your blood pressure to try and prevent these from occurring.

Blood pressure can increase due to a salty diet, not enough exercise, alcohol consumption, and smoking to name but a few. Making changes to your lifestyle and diet can help to reduce your blood pressure and help reduce the risks of developing heart disease. There are also many medications your doctor can prescribe if your blood pressure is dangerously high.

Blood pressure is measured using a sphygmomanometer. A complicated name for an uncomplicated machine! An inflatable cuff is wrapped around your upper arm and as it tightens it sends signals to a monitor from which you can read your blood pressure.

During Know your numbers week, hundreds of pressure stations will be set up in public places around the UK offering free blood pressure measurements. If your blood pressure is found to be high, you will be given a letter from your GP so they can decide on the best course of treatment for you.

Take a look at their website to see where your nearest pressure station is!

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