Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What is Blood Pressure?

blood pressureIt is checked every time you visit the doctor, but exactly what is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is a vital sign that refers to the amount of force imposed on the walls of the arteries by circulating blood. When the heart beats, pumping blood into the arteries, blood pressure is at its highest point. This highpoint is called systolic blood pressure. The point of the lowest amount of pressure on the artery walls, which occurs between heartbeats, is called the diastolic pressure. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and is expressed using both the systolic and diastolic pressure readings. An example of a normal blood pressure may be 120/80 mmHg, which is expressed verbally as "120 over 80." The top number represents the systolic pressure, while the bottom number represents the diastolic pressure.

Periodic blood pressure checks are important because there are often no symptoms to indicate blood pressure problems. Blood pressure in an individual varies throughout any given day, and is lowest during sleep or rest. High blood pressure, called hypertension, puts strain on the heart to work harder and carries increased risk of other complications such as stroke and heart failure. The exact cause of high blood pressure is unknown in most cases, but some risk factors are genetics (family history of hypertension), obesity, smoking, stress and a sedentary lifestyle. Low blood pressure could also be reason for concern as it could indicate underlying health problems.

Today, easy to use digital blood pressure monitors make it easy for people to check their own blood pressure at home. These are helpful devices for people who are working to manage their blood pressure through diet or medication and need regular readings. Consulting with a medical professional is important if any abnormalities in blood pressure are observed through home readings. High or low blood pressure is cause for additional testing to detect or rule out underlying conditions.

Note: This information is not intended to supplement or replace advice from a medical professional, or to diagnose or treat any condition.

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