Blood pressure (BP) is the pressure exerted by the circulating blood on the walls of blood vessels. It is the force that keeps the blood moving throughout the body. It usually refers to the pressure in large arteries during systemic circulation. In an adult, normal resting systolic blood pressure is approximately 120 millimeters of mercury (16 kPa) and diastolic pressure is 80 millimeters of mercury (11 kPa). It is abbreviated as “120/80 mmHg”.
The top number is our systolic blood pressure which is the highest pressure when our heart beats and pushes blood around our body. The bottom one is our diastolic blood pressure which is the lowest pressure when our heart relaxes between the beats. Blood pressure is one of the most vital corporal measurements along with heart rate, respiratory rate, body temperature, and oxygen saturation.
Why is blood pressure significant?
Normal blood pressure is vital for life. Without an effective pressure that forces the blood to flow around the circulatory system, no nutrients or oxygen can reach your tissues and organs. However, blood pressure can sometimes become dangerously high and low which hinders the normal working of the body.
Blood pressure provides the main force which pushes oxygen and other nutrients around our body for the nourishment of tissues and organs. It is also important for the delivery of white blood cells, antibodies, and hormones such as insulin.
Blood not only provides oxygen and nutrients but also picks up many toxic waste products of metabolism. The waste products include carbon dioxide which we exhale during breathing and the toxins eliminated by our kidneys and liver. Blood also carries clotting platelets that fight the tissue damages and prevent blood loss during an injury.
How is the pressure of blood created?
A basic law of physics explains blood flow through our vessels. It explains that the difference in pressure causes the flow of blood through our body.
Blood pressure is highest at the start of its journey from our heart – when it enters the aorta – and it is lowest at the end of its journey along smaller branches of arteries. This pressure difference causes the blood to flow around our bodies. The pressure of the blood would fall away more quickly as it is pumped from the heart, without the elastic nature of the artery walls.
The properties of the arteries are also important in maintaining the blood pressure and allowing blood to flow throughout the body. The state of the arteries affects the blood pressure and its flow, and narrowing of arteries can eventually block the blood supply. It can lead to dangerous conditions including stroke and heart attack.
How is blood pressure measured?
When pressure from the arm cuff stops the pulse temporarily, it gives a top figure of arterial blood pressure – for example, “140 over 90.”
The device which we use to measure blood pressure is called a Sphygmomanometer. It consists of a rubber armband –which is the cuff that is inflated using a mechanical pump or hand.
A reading is taken as the cuff is inflated enough to stop the pulse either electronically or on an analog dial. The reading is expressed in expressions of the pressure it takes to move the mercury around a tube against gravity. That is the reason for pressure which is being measured by using the unit millimeters of mercury, abbreviated as mmHg.
High blood pressure (Hypertension)
The high blood pressure, over a long period of time, is medically termed as hypertension. A pressure that’s high over a long period of time is one of the main risk factors for heart diseases. The chances of having persistent high blood pressure increases as we get older.
It is very important to get blood pressure checked regularly, and if it’s high it needs to be controlled. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke. It may also affect the kidneys.
Causes of high blood pressure
The thorough causes of high blood pressure are not clear but it may be strongly influenced by:
- Family history
- Eating patterns, including salty foods
- Alcohol intake
- Physical activities
- Some medicines can also disturb the blood pressure
Symptoms of Hypertension
We can’t feel a high blood pressure. There are no warning signs, so you can have it and may not know. That is why it is very important to get it checked.
The best way to know about high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked by your health practitioner or doctor. They will check your blood pressure by using an inflatable bag which goes around the arm. It is connected to a device that measures the pressure.
Blood pressure can vary at different times of the day. Sometimes blood pressure can even go up just because someone is taking it, so it is important to have a precise measurement of blood pressure. A person should talk to his doctor or any health practitioner to know what his blood pressure level is and what it should be.
Low blood pressure (Hypotension)
Low blood pressure is also called as hypotension. It is the blood pressure low enough that flow of blood to the body organs is inadequate and symptoms or signs of low blood flow develop. Low pressure alone, without any symptoms or signs, is not unhealthy usually.
Causes of Hypotension
Chronic low blood pressure with no possible symptoms is never too serious. But some health problems may occur when the pressure drops suddenly because all the organs especially the brain is deprived of an adequate blood supply. This can lead to light-headedness or dizziness.
A sudden drop in blood pressure commonly occurs in someone who is rising from a lying down or sitting position to a standing one. This type of low blood pressure is called as orthostatic hypotension or postural hypotension. Another type of low blood pressure which occurs when somebody stands for a long time is known as neurally mediated hypotension.
For many people, low blood pressure signals an underlying problem, specifically when it drops abruptly or is accompanied by symptoms and signs such as:
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Fainting (syncope)
- Blurred vision
- Lack of concentration
Extreme hypotension may result in the life-threatening conditions. The Signs and symptoms also include:
- Confusion, especially in older people
- Cold, clammy, pale skin
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Weak and rapid pulse
How can you control your blood pressure?
If a person has issues with blood pressure, he/she should talk to their doctor about the best way to control it. Some of the possible measures to control abnormal levels of blood pressure are as follow,
- Lifestyle changes
A doctor may recommend that you should make some healthier lifestyle choices such as changing the food you eat or getting more exercise.
People with high blood pressure must avoid high-fat foods. They must include fruits and vegetables in their diet. Hypertensive patients are advised to walk, exercise, and drink plenty of water regularly. Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline. Exercise regularly and eat healthily. Reduce sodium in your diet and limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Quit smoking and cut back on caffeine. Reduce your stress.
Many people also use medicines to control a blood pressure. The doctor will tell you if you need medicine or not, and he also monitors its effects. Blood pressure medicines don’t cure the condition but they just help to control it. The patient has to keep taking the medicines regularly, sometimes for the rest of his life. Without talking to your doctor do not stop taking your medicine.