Dr Tom: Why taking your blood pressure is so important

If the pressure is too low, such as under 90/60, it can cause light headedness, fainting and collapse. An ideal blood pressure is thought to be somewhere around 115/80. Elevated pressures over 140mmhg (millimetres of mercury) systolic can cause heart failure as the pump pushes against elevated pressure in the system. So, it’s important to know the pressure in your heart and the pipes, and if  it’s abnormal to do something about it. 

Blood pressure is essentially generated by three factors. How much fluid is in the system; the diameter of the pipes; and the rate that the heart pump contracts. Stress causes an increase in heart rate and constriction of the arteries which pushes blood pressure up. Contrary to popular opinion, we often don’t know our blood pressure is elevated, we need machines to measure it. New wearable devices such as wrist bands can also measure blood pressure, making it easier to record and track it across a variety of situations. 

As our blood does not like to be too salty, when we add salt to our diet, we must retain water to maintain the same concentration of salt in our blood. When we are young we can compensate for this by our blood vessels expanding, as we age the pipes harden and calcify so blood pressure goes up as frozen peripheral resistance can’t let the pressure off. 

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