• June

    14

    2022
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What’s Average Blood Pressure: Know Your Numbers

what's average blood pressure

A routine visit to your GP’s office is fairly predictable. You wait your turn in the queue then your vital signs are taken.

But did you know that abnormal vital signs could send you straight to the ED? High blood pressure symptoms can be critical.

Since nearly 14 million people in the UK live with high blood pressure and 4 million are undiagnosed, it’s often a routine trip to the GP that results in a hypertension diagnosis. 

Abnormal blood pressure can be an early indicator of severe illness. If you’ve ever wondered what is average blood pressure, keep reading. We’ll explain more about blood pressure and how to manage it for optimum health. 

What is Blood Pressure? 

Understanding blood pressure requires a little bit of cardiac and vascular knowledge. When your heart beats, the blood puts pressure on your arteries. This level of pressure is measured when your heart contracts and pushes blood out. The pressure is also measured at the moment immediately after when your heart is briefly at rest. 

What Do the Numbers Mean?

Your blood pressure reading consists of two numbers.

The top number is your systolic pressure. This number is the pressure exerted when the heart contracts and blood flows out. 

The bottom number is your diastolic pressure. This number is the measurement of the pressure exerted by the blood when your heart is resting. 

Your doctor considers the two numbers’ relationship to each other. These two numbers give your healthcare team an insight into the state of your cardiovascular health. 

Which Number is More Important? 

Healthcare practitioners know how to interpret both blood pressure numbers. But is one more important than the other? 

Many physicians focus on your systolic pressure, and rightly so. A higher systolic reading can indicate a higher risk for heart attack or stroke. 

However, your diastolic reading is just as essential. Since this number reflects the pressure when your heart is at rest, a slight increase can indicate a larger problem. 

If you’re taking your blood pressure at home, keep track of both numbers and share them with your GP at your next visit. 

What Is Average Blood Pressure?

An average blood pressure reading is lower than 120/80. 120 refers to your systolic reading, and 80 refers to your diastolic reading.

When your blood pressure is average, the walls of your arteries are healthy and can flex with the force of the blood as it leaves your heart. Flexible arteries are a sign of good cardiovascular health. 

For most people, their blood pressure numbers might fluctuate as they age or during periods of exertion or stress. But even small changes to systolic or diastolic pressure numbers can be a warning sign. 

What Is Elevated Blood Pressure? 

No one’s blood pressure reading is 120/80 all the time. Slight increases or decreases are perfectly normal. But when your doctor sees consistent changes over time, your blood pressure is no longer normal. 

Even a blood pressure reading of 129/80 is elevated blood pressure. Some doctors also define this as prehypertension. If your elevated blood pressure persists, there is a chance you will develop high blood pressure over time. 

What Is High Blood Pressure? 

High blood pressure, or hypertension, looks like a systolic reading of 130 or higher and a diastolic reading of 80-89. These numbers are on the lower end of the hypertension scale but are still concerning. 

You are officially hypertensive when your systolic reading is over 140, and your diastolic reading is over 90. It’s time for you and your doctor to have a chat. 

If your blood pressure is ever higher than 180/120, this is a hypertensive crisis, and you should seek medical attention immediately. 

What Causes High Blood Pressure? 

Your blood pressure can be abnormal for a variety of reasons. If you’ve just had a run or you’re very anxious your blood pressure will be higher than usual. But other factors can also change your blood pressure reading from average to elevated or high. 

And once your blood pressure is officially high, it’s time to look at some of the causes. 

Obesity

Being overweight or having a high body mass index is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure. When your body mass is more significant your heart must work harder to circulate your blood. This increases the pressure on your arteries, sometimes to dangerous levels. 

Diet

What you eat also affects your blood pressure. Fatty foods can cause plaque buildup in your arteries. Once this happens, your arteries lose some of their elasticity and the pressure exerted by your blood increases.

A diet high in salt also affects your blood pressure. Too much sodium causes your body to retain water. This extra fluid can increase your blood volume, increasing the pressure on your arteries. 

Family History

For many people, high blood pressure is genetic. If your parents have high blood pressure, there is a chance you will develop hypertension at some point in your life. 

Alcohol Use

Alcohol use can be a contributing factor to high blood pressure. The risk is higher for men. No matter your gender, if you consume more than two drinks per day, you’re putting yourself at risk for hypertension. 

Medications

Some medicines can also increase blood pressure. Birth control pills and cold medications are two of the leading culprits. Your doctor will weigh the risks and benefits before prescribing medication that can elevate your blood pressure. 

Excessive Stress

When your body is under emotional stress, hormones enter your blood. These hormones increase your heart rate and your blood pressure. Excessive stress and anxiety also increase your risk of a heart attack.

Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure 

If your GP has noticed an increase in your blood pressure, they’ll be quick to help you learn how to lower it. Unless your blood pressure is dangerously high, they often suggest lifestyle changes before prescribing medication. 

Change Your Diet

One of the easiest ways to lower your blood pressure is by changing your diet. Try to use less salt when cooking and avoid fast food that’s high in sodium. Try to eliminate fat as well. Add lean protein to your meals along with plenty of fresh vegetables. Consider trying meal replacement shakes to boost your nutrition without adding too many calories. 

Start Exercising

Your heart is a muscle, and muscles need exercise to perform at their peak. If you’re new to exercise, begin with short walks. You can start adding hills or stairs to your walking route as you get more fit. Or you can try an activity you find enjoyable. Some people prefer swimming or horse riding. The point is to get moving and boost your cardiovascular health. 

Stop Smoking

Tobacco use comes with more health risks than just high blood pressure. Smoking also causes cancer, ruins your teeth, and causes premature ageing. Talk with your doctor about smoking cessation aids like nicotine patches if you need help quitting. 

Limit Your Alcohol Intake

Too much alcohol is directly related to hypertension. But alcohol also makes you feel sluggish and unmotivated. When you’re trying to make broad lifestyle changes, alcohol can hinder your efforts. Save the pints for special occasions. 

Add Vitamins and Supplements

Your heart needs specific vitamins and minerals to perform at its best. Supplements high in magnesium can be very beneficial for your heart. Potassium is essential as well. Talk with your doctor about supplements that can help with your blood pressure.

Reduce Stress

Stress and anxiety both harm your blood pressure. Finding ways to relax can be difficult, but your life may depend on it. Exercise is a great way to lower stress and anxiety levels. Also, try to take time for yourself, even if it’s just reading a book or watching a show. Yoga and meditation are also effective ways to lower stress.

Be Proactive 

If you have a family history of hypertension, now is the time to act. Consider all of the above suggestions before your blood pressure gets out of control. Changing your diet and adding an exercise routine can also have the added effects of weight loss and better mental health. 

Change Your Blood Pressure, Change Your Life

Your blood pressure readings are one of the best indicators of your future health. You can dramatically decrease your risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and even dementia by taking steps to lower your blood pressure. 

Many people can be confused about what is average blood pressure. Be sure to see your GP regularly to keep track of your numbers. Early intervention is the best way to keep your blood pressure under control. 

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