Lower Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases your risk of kidney disease, heart attack, stroke and some other diseases. One in four Australian adults has high blood pressure and high blood pressure is the second highest contributor to Australia’s disease burden.
Why Is High Blood Pressure A Problem?
This excellent video from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains why high blood pressure is a problem for your body.
What does your blood pressure measurement mean?
Your blood pressure reading has two components. For example, you may be told that your blood pressure is 135/90 (“135 over 90″). The first number (135 in our example) is called the systolic blood pressure. It is the peak pressure in your arteries and that occurs when your heart contracts to push blood into your arteries. The second number (90 in our example) is called your diastolic blood pressure. That is the minimum pressure in your arteries and that occurs when your heart relaxes to refill with blood.
Ideally, your blood pressure should be less than 120/80 (but not less than 90/60). However, you won’t be diagnosed with high blood pressure (“hypertension”) unless your systolic blood pressure is at least 140 and/or your diastolic blood pressure is at least 90. There are three categories of hypertension (high blood pressure):
How risky is it to have high blood pressure?
In short: very. The chart below shows that, if you are aged 40-69, your risk of death from heart disease or stroke doubles for every 20 mmHg that your usual systolic blood pressure is above the baseline (120 mmHg), and doubles for every 10 mmHg that your usual diastolic blood pressure is above the baseline (80 mmHg). For example, this means that if your usual blood pressure is 160/100 mmHg then you have 4 times the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke compared with a person with a usual blood pressure of 120/80 mmHg.
For people younger than 40 or older than 69, blood pressure does not make quite as much difference to the risk of death, but it is still the case that your risk of death rises as your usual blood pressure rises.
What can you do about hypertension?
The good news is that blood pressure can usually be readily controlled by lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medication. This video from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains further. Please see your doctor for further detail about the options available to you.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014, High Blood Pressure, accessed 16 Feb 2014.
- Lewington S, Clarke R, Qizilbash N, Peto R, Collins R 2002, “Age-specific relevance of usual blood pressure to vascular mortality: a meta-analysis of individual data for one million adults in 61 prospective studies.”, Lancet. 2002 Dec 14; 360(9349):1903-13.