What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood pressing against the walls of the blood vessels (arteries) that deliver oxygen-rich blood from the heart to all parts of the body. Your heart contracts to force blood around the body and rests briefly between each heart beat. So, when someone takes your blood pressure, two measurements are obtained:

Hypertension occurs when the blood is being pumped through the arteries with more force than normal or when the arteries are calcified (smaller or narrowed). High blood pressure usually does not give any warning signs; you can feel perfectly well yet still have high blood pressure

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Monitoring your blood pressure:?

Since you cannot see your blood pressure, it is important that you have it checked at least yearly, or more frequent checks if you are over 40 years of age, have a history of high blood pressure, diabetes or any other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Individual blood pressure goals can vary widely depending on whether other risk factors for cardiovascular disease are present. Your doctor should discuss your recommended goal levels with you. You can use the following as a guide when your blood pressure is checked by a nurse or doctor:

What causes high blood pressure?

For most people, there is no specific cause for high blood pressure but the risk of serious problems associated with high blood pressure is increased by:

  • Smoking.
  • High blood cholesterol.
  • Being overweight.
  • Physical inactivity.
  • High salt intake.
  • Diabetes.
  • Family history of high blood pressure.
  • High alcohol intake.

For a minority of cases (about 10%) high blood pressure is related to another medical conditionimage (1)

Tips to control your blood pressure:?

It is recommended to:

  • Have your blood pressure checked during routine visits to your doctor.
  • Make healthy diet and lifestyle choices to do regular physical exercise (30 minutes per day of brisk walking), sit less, lose excess body fat for a healthy body weight, reduce your alcohol intake, quit smoking and minimise physical and emotional stress by relaxing and thinking positively.

Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five groups every day by eating:

  • Plenty of vegetables (include different types and colours) and legumes/beans.
  • Fruit.
  • Grain foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high fibre varieties (e.g. breads, cereals, rice and pasta).
  • Lean meats and skinless poultry (removing any visible fat), fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds.
  • Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives (mostly reduced fat).

To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, it is also important to:

  • Limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt and added sugars.
  • Select predominantly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats such as oils, spreads, nut butters/pastes and avocado.
  • Drink plenty of water and if you choose to drink alcohol, limit your consumption.

If diet and lifestyle changes are not enough to reduce your blood pressure, you may also require medicines. There are numerous blood pressure medicines and in some instances, a number of them may be required long term. If high blood pressure remains uncontrolled, a renal denervation procedure may help to lower your blood pressure.