Blood pressure is vital for life. Whenever a patient tells me they have blood pressure, my usual response is ‘Great!’ Like most things in life, it’s important to have just the right amount of blood pressure. If your blood pressure goes too low, you can collapse and if you have high blood pressure your arteries lose their elasticity and become hardened and damaged, leading to complications.
Why you need blood pressure
You need a certain pressure within your circulation to keep blood flowing around your body, just as a hose pipe needs pressure for water to travel through. Within the circulation, this pressure comes from the pumping action of your heart as it pushes blood through your arteries, and depends on:
- the volume of fluid inside your circulation
- how hard your heart is pumping at any particular time
- the elasticity or resistance of your arteries.
If your arteries are elastic and can dilate easily to even out surges, for example, your blood pressure will tend to stay within healthy limits.
Blood pressure varies
Your blood pressure naturally varies throughout the day and night, going up and down in response to your emotions and level of activity. When you have high blood pressure, or hypertension, however, your blood pressure remains high all the time, even at rest and while you are asleep.
When blood is forced through the circulation under a consistently high pressure, it damages your artery linings. This hastens hardening and furring up of the arteries so they become less elastic and less responsive to signals telling them to dilate. This hardening, in turn, increases your blood pressure even further, and if you don’t do anything to halt its progression, the health of your circulation will gradually deteriorate.
In the long-term, untreated high blood pressure damages both small and large arteries throughout your body and can lead to failing eyesight, difficulty thinking straight and kidney failure.
High blood pressure also increases your risk of experiencing heart failure, heart pain (angina), a full-blown heart attack or stroke.
You can have high blood pressure without knowing
If you have not had your blood pressure checked within the last year or two, you’re not alone. Two out of five people with high blood pressure remain blissfully unaware they are walking around with a ‘silent killer’. And that includes many people who are already on treatment for their high blood pressure.
Even when your blood pressure is high enough to damage your circulation and internal organs you usually notice few, if any, symptoms. As a doctor I’ve seen the devastating consequences of untreated hypertension.
One of the main problems is that most people have no obvious red-flag symptoms, even when their blood pressure is dangerously high. That’s why it’s vital to know your blood pressure numbers. If you haven’t had your BP checked in the last year, book an appointment with your family doctor now – especially if high blood pressure runs in your family.
Ask me a question
I’ve set up this website to provide all the information, tips and advice you need to keep your blood pressure under control.
Just a few relatively simple lifestyle changes could save your life.
If you have any questions about blood pressure, how it’s treated, or what you can do to help improve your readings, ask via the comments box below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
Please note, I can only give general advice. For individual advice, or if you have any persistent symptoms or worries, please consult your own doctor.
If you have a diagnosed health condition, or are taking any prescribed medicines or over-the-counter remedies, always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any food supplements or herbal medicines.
If your blood pressure is borderline or raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.
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