Regional Health update – High blood pressure is a silent killer

Sadly, lots of blokes don’t have their blood pressure (BP) checked because we don’t visit our GP for check-ups, and/or the GP has not done a blood pressure test. In fact, a lot of blokes don’t know what the blood pressure readings mean and have never had it explained to them.

High blood pressure is one of the three main risk factors for heart attack and the main risk factor for stroke. Having a consistently high BP isn’t a good thing and may become more common as we age.

Fortunately, high BP isn’t inevitable, nor unmanageable if we have it, but controlling high BP is critical in protecting our long-term health and wellbeing.

Our bodies contain about five litres of blood, which the heart pumps continuously around an intricate network of blood vessels. This process delivers vital nutrients and fresh oxygen to our body’s tissues and organs, whilst creating a certain amount of pressure inside our arteries (blood vessels that take blood away from the heart and out to the body).

Our blood pressure depends primarily on two things:

  • The amount of blood pumped by the heart; and
  • How easily the blood can flow through the arteries.

Blood pressure readings are given in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and consist of two numbers:

  • The top number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart pumps – systolic (sys-tol-ik) pressure;
  • The bottom number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart relaxes – diastolic (di-as-tol-ik) pressure.

What is normal blood pressure?

According to the Australian Health Foundation there is no normal, or ideal, blood pressure reading.

The following figures should only be used as a guide.

The cause of high BP quite often is a mystery. It can be linked to genetics (family history is important), poor diet, being overweight and/or lack of exercise. The effects of some medicines being used to treat varying health conditions can also be a factor along with underlying health disorders that we may have.

The harm of high BP over time is simple. It can overload both the heart and blood vessels, which in turn make us more susceptible to heart attack and stroke.

There are many things that we can do to keep our blood pressure healthy.

To help manage high BP many people need medicine, but by making the following healthy lifestyle changes, blood pressure can be lowered.

  • Be a non-smoker
  • Eat less fat and salt
  • Keep alcohol intake down
  • Lose excess weight
  • Exercise regularly

It is possible to have high BP for years without knowing it, which is why it’s called a silent killer and is most often discovered during routine physical examinations.

Remember, be proactive and make an appointment for a service visit with your GP and always have BP on your checklist for your GP to check.

You can find more here.