We all have blood pressure of a kind. If we didn’t, blood wouldn’t flow from the heart and through the arteries. This pressure has two forms. When heart contacts, blood reaches its highest – systolic – pressure. When the heart relaxes between beats, the pressure falls to its lowest – diastolic – phase.
Your doctor measures these pressures in millimetres of mercury (mm/Hg) with an instrument known as a sphygmomanometer. Average pressure for healthy young adult is about 110 mm/Hg systolic and 75 mm/Hg diastolic, which is usually expressed as 110/75.
Many factors may cause the pressure to be much higher. Exercise is one because the hear needs to pump harder to supply oxygen. Age is another but quite normal factor. A healthy sixty-year-old may have blood pressure of 130/90.
When people complain of blood pressure, they are talking about what doctors call hypertension – constant abnormally high pressure which can cause life-threatening heart attacks and strokes. High pressure may force a weak spot in a blood vessel to balloon into surrounding tissue. Frequently, this is fatal.
To reduce blood pressure calls usually for changes in lifestyle. Hypertension affects up to 20 percent of adults. Some time sits has no obvious underlying cause. But many victims can lessen the risks by reducing their weight. Too much weight puts an extra burner on the heart. If these victims smoke, they should stop. Also, they should try to avoid stress which, like nicotine, constricts the blood vessels and forces the heart to work so much harder.
Everybody concerned about high blood pressure – now or later – should adopt a sensible diet. On rich milk, cram, cheese, eggs and fatty meats, all sources of cholesterol, should be avoided.