Understanding your blood pressure

August 15, 2017
Blood pressure readings can detect abnormally high or low pressure.

Blood pressure is the pressure of blood circulating through the arteries as it is pumped throughout the body. Abnormally high or sometimes low blood pressure can cause cardiovascular or other health problems, but rarely have noticeable symptoms. For this reason, monitoring blood pressure through regular checks is important.

34 per cent of Australian adults aged 18 or over have high blood pressure.

Reading blood pressure 

As the heart works to pump blood, there are peaks and dips in the intensity of the pressure. Blood pressure measures the maximum rise during one heart beat, against the minimum drop between two heart beats.

Therefore, blood pressure readings are generally displayed as two numbers – the systolic blood pressure over diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the maximum pressure during one heart beat, as the muscle contracts and pumps blood, and diastolic is the minimum pressure between two heart beats, when the heart is relaxing and filling with blood. For example, a typical blood pressure reading could be 120/80.

A healthy blood pressure reading is anything below 120/80. Anything up to 139/89 is considered to be in the normal to high range, and anything greater than this reading is high blood pressure. Blood pressure can vary throughout the day, so two very high or low readings are usually needed to confirm that a person’s blood pressure is outside the normal range.

The systolic blood pressure, or upper number, is generally regarded as more important. It rises with age as large arteries stiffen and plaque builds up, so this number alone can be indicative of high blood pressure.

Blood pressure can be a risk factor in cardiovascular health conditions. Blood pressure can be a risk factor in cardiovascular health conditions.

High blood pressure 

Long term high blood pressure – 140/90 or over – is known as hypertension and is the most common circulatory condition. It is a major risk factor in heart disease, according to the Heart Foundation, and can also increase the risk of stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.

High blood pressure is not uncommon. Around 6 million Australians, 34 per cent of adults aged 18 or over, have high blood pressure, the Heart Foundation says. While high blood pressure itself is not necessarily dangerous, the fact that it is a major contributing factor to other more severe health conditions means that it should be monitored carefully.

The numbers clearly illustrate the risk high blood pressure can pose: Cardiovascular disease kills one Australian every 12 minutes, the Heart Foundation reports, with high blood pressure accounting for around 40 per cent of these cases.

Low blood pressure 

Low blood pressure, or hypotension, is classed as any reading below 90/60.

Hypoension is much better than high blood pressure and is generally seen as a sign of good health, with the expectation to live longer and healthier. Extremely fit people, for example, tend to have low blood pressure.

Sometimes, however, low blood pressure can be an issue, restricting the flow of blood to the extremities and vital organs, resulting in dizziness, fatigue or fainting. This can be of particular concern for people with underlying illness or those at risk of falls.

76 per cent of people with hypertension are overweight or obese.

Improving blood pressure

Blood pressure can be influenced by a number of factors, including cardiac output, vascular resistance and arterial stiffness, and can also depend on situational and environmental factors. Men have been found to have higher instances of high blood pressure than women aged over 18, at rates of 23 and 19 per cent respectively, the Heart Foundation states.

Hypertension can be managed and prevented through regular exercise a healthy diet, limiting alcohol intake and avoiding smoking. Being overweight or obese can also increase blood pressure to dangerous levels – according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 76 per cent of people with hypertension are overweight or obese. Losing weight and reducing salt intake can also help to bring blood pressure readings down to optimal levels.

However, while lifestyle changes can make a difference in improving one’s blood pressure, regular monitoring by a trained clinician is always recommended for those with abnormally high or low blood pressure.

Home monitoring can help you understand your blood pressure and how it affects your health

Connected health and blood pressure monitoring

Ongoing monitoring at home, as part of a connected health package, can help ensure that blood pressure remains in a healthy range.

Tunstall’s connected health service can assist people to monitor their own health at home, alongside a personalised care package and supported by a remote care team. That care team can remotely monitor a person’s vital sign data and respond accordingly.

This connected healthcare approach to health care helps people stay independent, avoiding unnecessary GP and hospital visits, and also reduces demand on the traditional healthcare system.

Find out more about Tunstall’s connected health service by exploring our website, or give us a call on 1800 603 377 to discuss which package would be best for you.

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