One of the most common practices when you see a doctor, including our private GPs at London Doctors Clinic, is to get your blood pressure taken. You might be told that your blood pressure is low, normal or high. But what exactly does that mean? Let’s go through a few points so that you can better understand your blood pressure numbers and how they can give an indication of your overall heart health.
What is Blood Pressure?
When you get your blood pressure taken, it’s expressed as a fraction with one number placed over the other. The number on top of the line refers to the systolic blood pressure and is the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart contracts.
The number under the line is the diastolic blood pressure and is the pressure in your vessels when your heart is relaxed (between beats and your heart is filling up with blood getting ready to contract again).
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
Blood pressure is expressed as a fraction, with one number placed over the other (the bottom number is this picture shows the pulse)
What Is A Normal Range For Blood Pressure?
For an adult, the normal range of blood pressure is between 90-120 for the top number or systolic pressure, and 60-80 for the bottom number or diastolic pressure. So a normal blood pressure would be a value below below 90/60mmHg and above 120/80mmHg.
Blood pressure that’s too low (hypotension) means your heart isn’t contracting enough to supply your head and body with enough oxygenated blood.
Blood pressure that’s too high means that your heart is working too hard to pump blood to the rest of your body and many diseases can arise as a result of hypertension. In this article, we’re going to focus on high blood pressure, which there are 4 main categories.
High Blood Pressure Categories
- When your systolic pressure is between 120 and 139 and your diastolic pressure is between 80-89.
- High Blood pressure Stage 1
- A systolic pressure between 140 and 159 and a diastolic pressure between 90-99.
- High Blood pressure stage 2
- Systolic pressure of 160 or higher and a diastolic pressure of 100 or higher.
- Hypertensive crisis
- Systolic is higher than 180 and diastolic is higher than 110 and emergency medical attention is required immediately if it is consistent with two readings five minutes apart.
High Blood Pressure Complications
Hypertension can cause a variety of health complications. It puts stress on important organs in the body such as the kidneys, heart, brain and several other essential organs, causing them to decline over time. High blood pressure causes damage to blood vessels and organs without any obvious symptoms before it’s too late.
Blood vessel deterioration
- Blood vessels run all over your body, supplying nutrients to all your tissues and organs, ensuring they’re functioning properly. High blood pressure can cause any one of these blood vessels to thicken or weaken, which can cause a section of a major vessel to enlarge and bulge (an aneurysm) and may eventually rupture, causing life-threatening bleeding.
- High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of heart disease, which can include coronary artery disease or heart failure. Both these conditions increase the hearts workload, causing the blood vessels or the heart to thicken, which can lead to angina (chest pain usually on exertion), heart attack and death.
Damage to your brain
- High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke by damaging the vessels in your brain in the same way, causing them to narrow, weaken or rupture.
- Your kidneys filter excess waste from your body and high blood pressure can have a huge impact on normal kidney functioning over time, decreasing waste removal. This can lead to dangerously high levels of waste products in your body, which can cause kidney scarring or kidney failure and may require the need for a kidney transplant.
Controlling High Blood Pressure
Lifestyle habits are the main cause of a rising blood pressure. Changing some habits that you’ve acquired over the years can help to make a serious impact on lowering your blood pressure and decreasing your risk for developing any of the complications mentioned above.
The main lifestyle changes are:
- To stop smoking as it has a horrendous effect on your blood vessels
- Exercise regularly
- Eating a healthy diet and reducing your salt intake
- Reduce the amount of alcohol consumption
- Reduce your stress levels
Changing your lifestyle, for example by reducing stress, will help control high blood pressure
What Can The Doctor Do?
At LDC, your private doctor will advise you of the lifestyle changes you should undertake (and the significance of why they need to be improved on). If your blood pressure is Stage 1 or 2, as mentioned above, then they will also prescribe drugs, that will decrease the stress that is currently being put on the heart. This aims to decrease the risk of a stroke, heart attack or aneurysm.
If you’re at all concerned about the health of your heart, book in today for a consultation. With nine private clinics across central London, we should never be too far away when you’re in search of a “GP near me“!
By Sophie O’Halloran