What is High Blood Pressure?

High Blood Pressure Reading
High Blood
Pressure Reading

We often associate high blood pressure with stress or a stressful situation...often joking about it when we feel that we're really under the gun in our working lives..or our personal lives in an attempt to diffuse that internal tension that we feel.

Is this what having an elevated blood pressure is? Here's a good simple definition:

Elevated blood pressure or hypertension is a condition where the force exerted by your blood against the internal walls of your arteries is consistently above a per-determined normal blood pressure range.

Hypertension and High Blood Pressure are exactly the same thing

Approximately one third of all adults have some form of hypertension. This incidence increases as people age. For example, only thirty percent of individuals in their seventies will have a normal blood pressure reading.

Of that one third of all adults who have elevated blood pressure.....well....one third of them don't know that they have it!

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So What?

Well, let's think about this for a moment purely from an engineering perspective.

You're running a closed pressurized fluid filled system consisting of a pump device, some end point components and a hose network connecting everything together.

What do you think will happen to the complete system if you continually run it at high pressure, outside of the manufactures specifications?

Either the pump, the hose network or your end point components will fail far earlier than the manufacturer and design team ever intended. This will happen simply because none of the components were designed to withstand constant, continual above normal pressure.

It's the same with your body. Consistently above normal blood pressure is associated with...

  • Heart Attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke and..
  • Kidney failure

High blood pressure has also been linked to neovascular glaucoma a serious eye condition that requires specialist medical care.

If you know that you have high blood pressure...you can take measures to reduce it so that you are operating within an acceptably safe range.

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A blood pressure reading is created by two forces

The first force is the pressure created by the left ventricle of the heart contracting and squeezing its contents of freshly oxygenated blood out of the ventricle and into the arteries of your body.

The second force is created by the amount of resistance encountered by the blood in your arteries as it is forced into the arterial system.

Also, how liquid your blood is..its viscosity, and the diameter and length of your arteries all have a part to play in the overall pressure in the 'system'. As your body ages...or disease processes become more evident your left ventricle may not function as well as it previously has and so your hearts ability to function correctly as a pump can become impaired.

Additionally your arteries become less elastic as you age and in many people atherosclerotic deposits start to build up on the inside wall of the arteries resulting in a narrower diameter or lumen with which the blood can pass through.

Reduced elasticity in your artery walls equates to a reduced cross-sectional area in your arteries when your left ventricle contracts and pumps your blood....this elevates your blood pressure.

All these factors interplay and result in your specific blood pressure..or..your usual blood pressure reading.

Normal Blood Pressure
Blood Pressure

Blood pressure and the garden hose

Think about what happens when you connect a garden hose to a tap...the uncoiled hose lying on the ground.

One quarter turn of the tap will eventually fill the hose...the water will exert very minimal pressure against the inside wall of the hose.....the hose won't move and the water will eventually dribble out of the nozzle end of the hose...this is similar to hypotension or low blood pressure.

If you turn the tap on a good full turn the water will exert moderate pressure against the inside wall of the hose....you'll probably see the hose twitch a bit as it responds to the pressure of the water flowing through it. You'll get a good steady stream of water coming out the nozzle end of the hose. This is similar to what a normal blood pressure is like.

Now..if you turn the tap on a forceful three or four full turns the water will exert high pressure against the inside wall of the hose. The hose will move quite obviously....the nozzle end will probably swing around in all directions....usually ending up pointing straight back at you! A forceful geyser of water will shoot out the nozzle end of the hose. This is similar to what hypertension or high blood pressure is like.

Normal adult blood pressure is assessed by evaluating two measurements and determining if they fit within specific ranges.

Measurement One:

Systole (sist-olly). Is the big number and tells you the pressure in the arterial system at the time your left ventricle contracts

Measurement Two:

Diastole (die-ast-olly). Is the smaller number and tells you the pressure in the arterial system when the left ventricle is relaxed - between beats. You could call this a residual system pressure...when 'nothing' is happening.

Your blood pressure will fall within one of the following categories...

  • Low blood pressure
  • Ideal blood pressure
  • Normal blood pressure
  • High-Normal blood pressure
  • High blood pressure

What is normal blood pressure?

  • Ideal Blood Pressure: A reading of less than 120/80 mmHg
  • Normal Blood Pressure: A reading of 120/80 mmHg
  • High Normal Blood Pressure: A reading of 120/80 to 139/89
  • Prehypertension: is the same as the high normal range
  • Stage One Hypertension: defined as Systolic 140-159mmHg and Diastolic of 90-99mmHg
  • Stage Two Hypertension: defined as Systolic above 160mmHg and Diastolic above 100mmHg

Click here for help Understanding Blood Pressure Results

Essential Hypertension or Primary Hypertension

When there is no identifiable cause of your high blood pressure it is called Essential Hypertension or Primary Hypertension. Around ninety five percent of high blood pressure cases are essential or primary in nature.

Secondary Hypertension

When high blood pressure is clearly related to a specific cause..such as kidney disease, a narrowing in the Aorta or dysfunction of the Adrenal glands it is called secondary hypertension.

The associated risks of high blood pressure certainly warrant regular checks.

Putting in place measures that allow good management of hypertension once a record of consistent results has been established is the smart thing to do.

Contact your health care professional today and begin regular monitoring of your blood pressure.

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