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 What is blood pressure?


Blood pressure (BP) is one of the principal vital signs.


The heart and blood vessels constitute the cardiovascular (circulatory) system.  The blood circulating in this system delivers oxygen and nutrients to the tissues of the body and removes waste products from the tissues.


The heart is a muscle that functions to pump blood around the circulatory system to the whole body.   Blood pressure is due to the pumping of the heart and is the pressure exerted by circulating blood upon the walls of the blood vessels.


How is blood pressure measured?


Blood pressure is measured after a person sits or lies down for 5 minutes.  Blood pressure is generally measured on the inside of an elbow at the brachial artery, which is the upper arm's major blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart.


Blood pressure is usually expressed in terms of the systolic pressure over diastolic pressure.  (For example 110/70 mmHg)


Why test blood pressure?


Prolonged changes in blood pressure can have detrimental health implications and consequences. 


Hypertension refers to high blood pressure.  It has been called the “silent killer” as it usually does not cause symptoms for many years, until a vital organ is damaged.


Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases the risk of stroke, aneurysm, heart failure, heart attack and kidney damage. 


High risk factors for hypertension include, obesity, lack of exercise, ageing, being a male, high salt diet, kidney disease, family history, stress, some medications  and adrenal tumour. 


The importance of diet and exercise for cardiovascular health.


The risk of cardiovascular disease increases progressively when blood pressure reaches above 115/75 mmHg.  Clinical trials demonstrate that people who maintain arterial pressures at the low end of the normal pressure ranges have much better long term cardiovascular health.


Many of the effects of ageing on the heart and blood vessels can be reduced by regular exercise and a low sodium and alkalising diet. 


Exercise helps people maintain cardiovascular fitness as well as muscular fitness as they age. 


An alkalising, low sodium diet can have a positive impact on blood pressure. A recent study found that a low sodium diet and alkalising diet (DASH diet) can lower blood pressure substantially.   (N Engl J Med. 2001 Jan 4;344(1):3-10.  Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.)


If you suffer from hypertension it is vital that you make healthy changes to your diet and increase your exercise. 





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