What is blood pressure? This is how to tell if you’re in the normal range

What is blood pressure? Whether it's high, low or normal blood pressure can have an effect on your health.

When your heart beats it pumps blood around your body so that it has enough energy and oxygen.

However, as blood moves it pushes against the side of the vessels, and if it does this with too much force it is known as high blood pressure or hypertension.

Blood Pressure UK explain this can strain your arteries and your heart and raise your risk of heart attacks and strokes. 

Blood pressure can be raised by a number of risk factors.

The Mayo Clinic list some of these as increasing age, family history, being overweight, smoking, consuming too much salt, and not having enough vitamin D or potassium in your diet.

But what is the normal range? According to Blood Pressure UK you should have a reading of below 120 over 80 - sometimes written as (120/80).

You can have a reading in the range from 120 over 80 (120/80) to 140 over 90 (140/90) and still not be classed as having high blood pressure, but you should be taking steps to lower it.

These include reducing the amount of salt in your diet, cutting back on alcohol, exercising regularly, stopping smoking and losing weight.

Having a reading over this is high blood pressure, and the higher it rises after that the greater your risk of major health problems.

For example, Blood Pressure UK estimate that someone with a blood pressure level of 135 over 85 (135/85) is twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as someone with a reading of 115 over 75 (115/75).

Finding out whether you have high blood pressure or not can be difficult.

This is because it doesn’t often trigger symptoms, and even then they could be confused with something else.

Easy to miss signs include a severe headache, fatigue, vision problems and an irregular heartbeat.

The only way to tell for sure is to have it measured and you will receive two numbers from a doctor.

According to Blood Pressure UK, the first or top number is your systolic blood pressure - the highest level that is reached when your heart beats.

The second is the diastolic blood pressure - the lowest level it reaches when your heart relaxes between beats.

Equally, you don’t want your blood pressure to dip too low either.

This is called hypotension and is categorised as lower than 90 mm Hg systolic or 60 mm Hg diastolic.

Symptoms include lightheadedness, blurred vision, confusion and fainting, according to the NHS.

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