Hypertension is the medical term for High Blood Pressure. Usually when a person is advised about their blood pressure readings, they are given 2 numbers i.e. 140/90.  The first number (the systolic reading) is the amount of pressure in the heart when it contracts (pumps), to allow the blood to move around the body.  The second number is known as the diastolic and is the amount of pressure in the muscles when the heart is not beating i.e. its inbuilt muscle tone. Usual blood pressure levels are considered to be around 120/80, although the reading can be affected by issues with our health.

The first most common reason for a raised blood pressure is Stress. Many people will comment that a soon as they see a doctor or a ‘white coat’ their blood pressure goes up. This is known in the medical profession as ‘White Coat Syndrome’. In the events of Stress or Anxiety, hormones are released that raise the blood pressure and make the heart go faster. To allow the readings to settle it is usual for the blood pressure to be taken three times, with an average of all three readings considered.  This is usually accompanied by reassuring conversation to put a person at ease.

Should the blood pressure remain high, professionals will then ask questions about a person’s current circumstances. To determine if there is any Stress in their lives that would account for the high readings. In the event there is no work or home stressors, further questions would be asked about physical health.

I feel it is easier to understand blood pressure if you compare it to your garden hose. If the pressure is good, the heart is pumping well, it manages to move blood all around the body (garden), reaching all the cells (flowers) with oxygen and nutrients. If the pressure is low, i.e. the pumping of the heart is not working well, then the cells at the peripheries of the body (feet and hands) will not get the nutrients they require. Similarly, if the pressure is too high then the stream of blood has the natural tendency to damage cells, starting with the smallest cells, such as in the kidneys. If there is a blockage in the hose, this can cause the blood pressure to raise as the body tries to overcome the barrier. In the event of an extra-large garden. A regular hose length will not reach the whole garden, despite raising the pressure, which is what happens when a person is overweight and the circulation, which is only made for a regular size body, tries to compensate.

Smoking can affect blood pressure as it reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood. The heart compensates by increasing the blood pressure in the system so as more blood and oxygen can be sent to the cells.

Alcohol can also affect blood pressure as it causes damage to the kidneys; with the kidneys having to overwork to remove the alcohol from the system.  There are also what is know as diuretic properties in alcohol (making a person pee more), which again leads to overworking of the kidneys.

A further factor that needs to be considered is medical conditions, which can affect the consistency of the blood, such as high Cholesterol levels that make the blood stickier and cause blood cells to latch on to the edge of the veins and arteries, which can eventually lead to a partial or full blockage. As outlined above this will result in raised blood pressure.

As mentioned above hormones manage the blood pressure levels. These are hormones found in above the kidneys in the adrenal glands that regulate the blood pressure depending on what the body requires. Also, the thyroid gland that is found in the neck, produces Thyroxine, which determines the body’s metabolic rate. If there is a disease of the Thyroid this can alter the messages to the brain and cause either a lowering or a raising of the blood pressure.

Persistent High Blood Pressure, if using the garden analogy can cause erosion of part of the circulation, which is when a Stroke due to a brain bleed can happen. A stroke can also come about as a result of High Cholesterol, although the stroke will be caused by a blockage, preventing blood getting to an area of the brain.

Considering it is a relatively easy measurement to take, it should be something that everybody should be checking throughout their lives, more as we age. Chemists now offer the opportunity to ‘pop in’ and have your blood pressure checked and will advise if the reading is within normal limits.  So do not hesitate, get a reading carried out soon.