High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is one of the three greatest risk factors for coronary heart diseases. It is the biggest risk factor for a stroke. It may also lead to kidney failure or even blindness.
What do we mean when we talk about “blood pressure?”
When a doctor or nurse checks your blood pressure and writes it down, you may see two numbers, written as 120/85. (You may hear this said as “120 over 85″ or “120 by 85.”) Both numbers represent the pressure within the arteries of your body, measured in millimeters of mercury.
The higher number is called the “systole” or the “systolic pressure”. It shows the pressure against the walls of the arteries at the time the heart is pumping.
The lower figure, the “diastole” or the “diastolic pressure”, indicates the pressure at the time the heart is resting. It is during the resting period that the blood flows most freely into the coronary arteries, which supply the heart muscle with oxygen and nutrients.
Because of this, a diastolic pressure of more that 85 or 90 may cause concern, since the heart is not relaxing enough to get its own full oxygen requirement.
Blood pressure is different for everyone, and what is considered normal for one person may be high for another. Normal blood pressure may be around 110/70mmHg.
As a person ages, the pressure should remain unchanged if the person lives a very healthy lifestyle.
In reality, however, most people’s blood pressure does rise slightly with increasing age. A systolic pressure of 140 or above is considered high for a young person; in an older adult, a systolic pressure of more than 160 would need to be watched.
Generally, the higher the blood pressure, the greater the person’s risk of a heart attack, a stroke, or a kidney disease. With higher blood pressure, the heart must constantly work harder to pump the blood through the arteries.
One major life insurance company in the USA predicts that if a 35-year-old man has a blood pressure of 150/100mmHg or more; his life expectancy is decreased by about 16 years. As a rule, the lower the blood pressure, within normal limits, the lower the risk of a heart attack.
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