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What Is High Blood Pressure?

Published on 26th June 2018

What is High Blood Pressure?

So, what is blood pressure?

Your heart is the “pump” of the circulatory system, pushing blood through your arteries so it can deliver nutrients to the body and also collect waste products for elimination out of the body. When your heart contracts, it pushes blood into your arteries and this causes an increase in the pressure. At this stage, the pressure in your arteries is at its highest and is known as the systolic pressure. Then, when your heart relaxes, it refills with blood and the pressure in your arteries decreases. This is the lowest pressure in your arteries and is known as diastolic pressure. Both types of pressure are measured in terms of mercury (mmHg).

As you can see from the blood pressure chart, only one of the numbers has to be higher or lower than it should be to count as either high blood pressure or low blood pressure. Several readings taken over a period of weeks are normally used to diagnose high blood pressure (HBP), as a one-off reading may be due to your circumstances at the time of having the reading taken, ie feeling tense, just had a caffeine drink eg coffee or cola, or you may have been rushing.

High blood pressure can cause the heart to enlarge and weaken it. It can also damage the blood vessels and this can lead to more serious health issues.

If you haven't had your blood pressure checked in a while, make an appointment to see your GP or nurse. You can also make appointments at various locations run by your local NHS Healthy Living Team.


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