Understand your blood pressure and know what normal means for you

Lifestyle, Sport



Understanding your blood pressure

Understanding your blood pressure reading is the first step to taking action to reduce your blood pressure or maintain a healthy level.

We know that we should eat a healthy diet, reduce salt intake, keep active and drink alcohol in moderation to maintain a healthy weight and general good health. However, when we look at measuring our health, more than one in five adults worldwide have raised blood pressure; understanding your blood pressure and what is considered a ‘normal’ level will help you to make the right lifestyle choices for a healthier heart and a healthier you.

Why measure blood pressure?

The higher your blood pressure is, the higher your risk of health problems in the future. High blood pressure puts extra strain on your arteries and on your heart, which over time will cause your arteries to become thicker and less flexible, ultimately narrowing them. Narrow arteries are more prone to blood clots which can lead to serious heart problems, such as heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.

Tracking your blood pressure regularly will give you a clear indication of your health, and it is easy to do with many at home blood pressure monitors available.

Understanding Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force or pressure of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. With each heartbeat, blood is pumped into our arteries and throughout the body. Blood pressure is given as two measurements, one over the other. The top figure is systolic – the pressure on the arteries as the heart contracts and pumps blood, the lower figure is diastolic – the pressure on the arteries when the heart rests between beats.

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (written as mmHg) and is recorded as systolic blood pressure over diastolic blood pressure, for example 120/80 mmHg.

Know Your Reading: What is Normal?

Once you’ve gotten into the habit of regularly measuring your blood pressure, you need to understand the readings. The ideal blood pressure is 120/80mmHg or less, at this level you have a much lower risk of heart disease or stroke. However a blood pressure up to 140/90 is considered as normal.

To work out what your blood pressure reading means, you can use a blood pressure chart to help translate your numbers into meaningful data. Use the chart to help determine if your blood pressure is normal or high.

Depending on how high your blood pressure levels are, you may need to see your doctor for more advice and possibly medication to help lower your blood pressure. As a guide, if you regularly measure:

  • 90/60mmHg or less: You may have low blood pressure. Usually, having low blood pressure is not a cause for concern. However, sometimes your blood pressure can drop to a point where you may feel faint or dizzy. If you find that your blood pressure is suddenly much lower than usual, there may be a reason for this. Speak to your doctor or nurse.
  • More than 90/60mmHg and less than 120/80mmHg: Your blood pressure reading is ideal and healthy. Follow a healthy lifestyle to keep it at this level.
  • 140/90mmHG or higher: You may have high blood pressure (hypertension). Change your lifestyle and make an appointment to see your doctor to discuss your blood pressure levels.

Understanding your blood pressure measurements with Braun ExactFit™ 3 & 5 Upper arm blood pressure monitors

Top Tips to Lower Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is common and an unhealthy lifestyle will raise your blood pressure over time. Simple lifestyle changes can do wonders for reducing your blood pressure levels and improve your long-term heart health reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.

1. Eat less salt

W.H.O. guidelines recommend we should eat less than 5g of salt per day – this is the equivalent of less than one teaspoon. Try to avoid adding salt to your food as around 75% of the salt we eat is naturally present in everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereal and convenience foods – also taste your food before adding salt, it may not need it!

Try avoiding adding additional salt to your food

2. Eat more fruits and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre and are usually low in fat and calories – helping to keep your waist trim and to look after your heart. And, if you need another reason to get your five a day, research suggests that eating more fruit and vegetables may make you happier too!

Research shows eating more fruit and vegetables make your happier

3. Keep a healthy weight

Being overweight can cause your blood pressure to rise. A healthy diet and regular exercise will help your waistline, and keep your heart and blood vessels healthy too.

A healthy diet and regular exercise will help keep your waistline trim and heart healthy

4. Drink less alcohol

Limit your alcohol intake and try not to exceed the weekly recommendations of 14 units, aiming for 2-3 alcohol-free days a week. 14 units is roughly a bottle and a half of wine or five strong pints of beer and it is best to spread consumption over 3 days or more.

Limit your alcohol intake and aim for 2-3 days off every week

5. Get more active

Try to get moving for 30 minutes every day. This doesn’t have to be a grueling workout in the gym or training for a marathon, go for a walk, try a new sport or even make small changes to your daily routine. Get off the bus a stop early, use the stairs and don’t sit for long periods of time.

Get moving for 30 minutes every day

Monitoring and understanding your blood pressure will give you a true indication of your health and provides you with a benchmark to help you make positive changes to your lifestyle that will help to reduce, or maintain, normal blood pressure – protecting your heart health.