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Doctors always use blood pressure as a measure of a person's physical condition but what does it actually mean? Blood pressure is defined as the "resistance of blood flow against the artery walls". As blood travels through our body's via veins and arteries it applies force to the artery walls and this is where the determination of blood pressure comes from.
The hose pipe analogy is a good way to explain this; when you turn the tap on slowly with a normal hose pipe the water flows naturally and under little force or pressure. However, if you turn the tap on faster (creating a bigger force or volume) the pressure inside the hose increases and the water speeds through. Another way to increase the speed of the flow is to squeeze the end making it smaller and therefore increasing the pressure and the water speeds up - but you can't sustain this for too long.
Within the body there are natural reasons for an increase in blood pressure such as:
- exercise - blood is travelling faster so therefore more force
- dehydration - blood becomes thicker
- illness - blood is travelling faster to deliver nutrients
Generally, these cause a blood pressure increase because the heart rate is increased causing the blood to travel at a faster rate or the blood is thicker causing the force to be higher. But our body is good at fixing this, however if it fails then this can lead to hypertension.
What Is Hypertension?
Hypertension is the name of long term high blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 for males and 110/70 for females. The top number is the pressure as the heart contracts and the lower is when it relaxes. Sometimes you can go to the doctors office and get a higher reading but this could be due to many reasons such as anxiety or being unwell. Hypertension is only classified when you have a high blood pressure over 140/90 for a prolonged period of time.
What Can Cause Hypertension?
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Genetic/Hereditary factors
Many of the factors above can be changed or adapted to lower your risk of developing hypertension such as being more active or changing your diet.
The reason these can lead to problems, as with diet and sedentary life, is that fatty plaque gets left in the arteries or the arteries themselves become stiff which means they cannot change to accommodate more blood flow or the space within the artery is narrower - both leading to an increase in pressure.
Hypertension is not something to pretend isn't happening because it can lead on to much more serous complications. It can lead to heart attack or stroke and even developing further coronary heart diseases which will further increase the risk of heart attack. Changing your diet and exercise regime are the simplest and best ways to lower your risk of developing any such problems.