Dylan Bowe | Last Updated – 30/12/2023 | 4 Minute Read
Blood pressure is an important indicator of cardiovascular health, playing a vital role in
maintaining overall well-being. This short article will delve into what blood pressure is, the
mechanisms behind high blood pressure and practical strategies for its management.
Blood pressure refers to the force exerted by the blood against walls of our arteries as it is
pumped by the heart. It is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is recorded as
two values: systolic BP – the pressure when your heart pushes blood out, and diastolic BP –
the pressure when your heart rests between beats. This measurement is usually given as
‘120/80mmHg’, meaning a systolic BP of 120mmHg and a diastolic BP of 80mmHg. A healthy
value of blood pressure is considered to be under 120/80mmHg, with high blood pressure
(also known as hypertension) is considered to be a consistent measure > 130/80mmHg,
according to the American Heart Association 2017 guidelines.
Hypertension can increase your risk of developing health conditions such as heart disease,
stroke, loss of eyesight or kidney disease. It is important to get your blood pressure checked
and measured by a healthcare professional on a routine basis, as it usually develops over
time and often has no symptoms. The HSE recommends checking your blood pressure once
a year if you are 40+, and at least once every 5 years if you’re healthy, with no family history
of hypertension and aged 18-39.
There are a variety of mechanisms to high blood pressure and in most cases it’s not exactly
clear what the cause of high blood pressure is. Factors that can raise your risk of developing
high blood pressure, according to the HSE includes:
- age – the risk increases as you get older
- A high amount of salt in your diet
- Regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol
- Long term sleep deprivation
- Being overweight
- Lack of exercise
There are many changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle to prevent and reduce your
high blood pressure.
- Lower your salt intake to 5g per day or lower. When you eat a lot of salt, it causes your body to hold on to a lot more fluid in your arteries (a confined space), therefore increasing the pressure of your blood. The average salt intake for Irish adults is approximately 10g per day!
- Opt for a Mediterranean style diet which includes the likes of extra virgin olive oil and nuts, the consumption of these foods provides large amounts of antioxidants and phenolic compounds, which may help in lowering blood pressure.
- Be more active – aiming to hit your weekly guidelines of 150min moderate intensity exercise/week
- Consume beetroot juice or citrulline malate – these dilate your arteries and can have a blood pressure lowering effect in the short term which can be beneficial
- Try to sleep > 7.5hrs/night
- Understanding high blood pressure and its implications to our health is key to improving health outcomes.
By making small changes to our everyday choices and paying attention to our lifestyle and diet, we can prevent and hopefully lower high blood pressure, which will lead to less risk of developing other chronic disease.