High Blood Pressure

Also referred to as hypertension, persistent High Blood Pressure is one of the risk factors for Stroke, Heart Attack, Heart Failure and many other Cardiovascular and Peripheral Vascular Diseases.

High Blood Pressure is a chronic cardiac medical condition and if left untreated will shorten life expectancy.

Get the facts on High Blood Pressure

What is High Blood Pressure?

High Blood Pressure (hypertension) occurs when the pressure in your arteries as your heart pumps blood through your body is higher than the normal standard.

The higher your Blood Pressure (BP), the greater your risk of Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Stroke, kidney and eyesight problems. Controlling and lowering high BP, is always a key part of managing or preventing cardiovascular disease and Peripheral Vascular Disease.

Blood Pressure

How is blood pressure measured?

When it comes to blood pressure Blood Pressure (BP), understanding your result is important.

Your BP reading is made up of two numbers – for example 120/80 (spoken as 120 over 80).

The numbers are a measure of the stiffness in the walls of your arteries. The top number, your systolic blood pressure, represents the pressure in the arteries as the heart pumps blood out.

The bottom number, your diastolic blood pressure reflects the pressure as the heart relaxes and receives blood.

To measure your BP an inflatable pressure cuff is wrapped around the upper arm, and connected to a mercury or digital-pressure measuring device. Together, this machine is called a sphygmomanometer (sfig-mo-ma-nom-eter). The systolic and diastolic measurements are recorded in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

How do I know if my blood pressure is too high?

Your blood pressure changes constantly throughout the day and night in relation to your activity and posture, for example from resting to exercising, so blood pressure is checked when you’re rested – lying or sitting down.

  • Normal blood pressure is defined as 120/80 mmHg or less
  • Blood pressure between 120/80 and 140/90 is 'borderline high BP’
  • High Blood Pressure is 140/90 mmHg or higher
  • And if your blood pressure exceeds 180/110 mmHg it’s in the very high range.

If you have High Blood Pressure, you may not know it until you’re tested, as there are often no symptoms until the onset of complications. As a rule it’s better for your BP to be low than high. Low BP can cause dizziness and very low blood pressure can in rare cases cause Heart Attack but this is extremely unusual.

What causes and how do I know if I have High Blood Pressure?

To understand exactly what blood pressure is, it may help to imagine that blood flowing through arteries is similar to water flowing through a garden hose. A new hose is elastic and flexible allowing water to flow through easily – this is similar to normal blood pressure in healthy arteries.

An old hose is stiff, rigid and unable to expand with increased pressure so the only way to get the water through is to turn the tap on harder and increase the water pressure. This is similar to what causes High Blood Pressure – the resistance of the arteries forces the heart to pump harder than it would if the arteries were healthy.

Unfortunately High Blood Pressure is considered to be asymptomatic which means that there really aren't any typical symptoms and it is possible to have High Blood Pressure without having any other Cardiovascular or Peripheral Vascular Diseases.

That being said Cardiovascular and Peripheral Vascular Diseases often come with High Blood Pressure as one of their symptoms. So it's important to have your blood pressure checked regularly.

In about 95% of High Blood Pressure cases, it’s not possible to identify why people have High Blood Pressure. This is called 'essential hypertension’. Sometimes High Blood Pressure runs in families.

Alcohol consumption is another cause and it doesn’t always need to be excessive. Kidney problems can cause High Blood Pressure as can eating too much liquorice or salt.

How is High Blood Pressure treated?

Lifestyle changes

In many cases, lifestyle changes such as dietary changes, physical activity and weight loss have been known to reduce Blood Pressure(BP). Even a 5kg weight loss will lower your blood pressure significantly.

Lowering sodium intake is known to be beneficial. Reduce salt intake, and where possible, cut it out completely. Check labels for sodium (salt) content, particularly on processed foods: snacks, breads, cereals, spreads and tinned products - don’t add salt while preparing or eating food – use herbs instead to intensify flavour.

Aim for none, but at a maximum, keep alcohol consumption down to two standard drinks a day with at least three alcohol free days per week. - If that’s too daunting, reduce your alcohol consumption by half for a month then recheck your BP.

Fuel your body with food that’s high in nutrition and low in saturated fats.

Get your heart pumping, at least moderately, with half an hour or more of sweaty physical activity most days a week and every day if you can. Work towards a body weight and waist circumference that’s healthy for you, and stay there.

Decrease the stress in your life. Spend time with friends and family, take up a relaxing hobby, or try meditation. Rethink your priorities and make changes to your life to reduce your tension levels.


When lifestyle changes aren’t enough, medications often form part of your treatment plan.

BP tablets can work in three ways: relaxing tight arteries to improve blood flow; softening the heart’s strong pumping action to slow down the flow of blood; or by changing chemicals in the body that control Blood Pressure (BP).

Commonly used medications are beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, ARB, calcium channel blockers and diuretics.

If you’re on medication, Check Your Blood Pressure (BP) Regularly to ensure it doesn’t dip too low.

You can also take supplements, natural elements that have health benefits such as aged garlic extract whixh has been shown to to lower High Blood Pressure (BP).

Can I prevent High Blood Pressure?

If High Blood Pressure runs in the family, or you have an underlying condition it may not be possible to prevent getting High Blood Pressure. However, for many people, prevention is possible, You can tackle the underlying triggers and suspected causes, which are closely associated with cardivascular disease.

The best way to prevent cardiovascular episodes and disease is to know the risk factors and manage them. While you can’t do anything about your gender, age or family history, you can reduce your risk significantly by knowing the controllable risk factors and managing them with life style changes, regular monitoring and supplements.

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Don't Smoke

If you smoke, there has never been a better time to quit. Nicotine replacement patches or prescription medications are effective in reducing the cravings.

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Check Your Cholesterol Levels Regularly

Do you know your cholesterol levels? Most people don't. Information is key, so knowing where you stand is the first step in keeping track and maintaining your heart health. You can order a Blood Pathology Request through HeartSmart.me. Results are mailed directly to you and you can track your results using the My Heart Health section of HeartSmart.me.

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Take Supplements Daily

Supplements are a great way to make sure you're getting your daily requirement of heart healthy nutrients. Supplements such as Omega 3 fish oil, Vitamins C and E and Coenzyme Q10 can be very beneficial to your heart health.

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Keep Your Blood Sugar In Range

If you have diabetes, follow your doctor’s direction and keep your blood glucose within a healthy range. Even if you don't have diabetes, stick to a low GI (Glycaemic Index) diet. You won’t be hungry and your blood sugar levels will be stable.

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Check Your Blood Pressure Regularly

Order a HeartSmart.me blood pressure monitor and keep track of your blood pressure weekly. You can record your results in the My Heart Health section of HeartSmart.me. Aim to keep your blood pressure out of the danger zone - below 140/90mmHg. If your blood pressure is consistently high see your doctor.

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Be Active

Get a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day, or at least 2 hours in total per week. Even better, if you can get 4 hours of sweaty activity per week, you'll help lower your risk of cancer too.

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Watch Your Waistline

Get your waist measurement to your 'low risk' zone. Men should keep it below 95cm and women should be below 80cm. Aim for a Body Mass Index of less than 25. You can track your progress in the My Heart Health section of HeartSmart.me.

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Seek Happiness

Happiness is good for the heart. Just as negative emotions such as depression, anger, and hostility are risk factors for heart attack and stroke, studies show that happiness seems to protect the heart.