World Health Day is an international UN day that celebrates the growing awareness and treatment of different health concerns, but it is also a day to bring light to a serious health issue in our society. This year, the focus is on high blood pressure. This serious medical concern increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes but can be difficult to detect.
Blood pressure refers to the force and volume of blood being pumped around your body by the heart and the size and flexibility of the arteries. The harder your heart has to work and the less your arteries are able to help generally means higher blood pressure. You know your blood pressure is being measured when a doctor or nurse puts an inflatable cuff around your upper arm.
According to a 2010 Heart Foundation survey, around one-third of Australians between 30 and 65 have high blood pressure. The good news is that the proportion of people with high blood pressure has been declining since the 1980s but it is still one of the most common health concerns managed by GPs around the country.
Blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day and it can be affected by the amount of activity you are doing as well as stress or your emotional state, but generally in Australia the normal blood pressure range is 90/50 to 120/80. High blood pressure is anything above that with severe high blood pressure being over 180/110. It is important to measure it over several different occasions to determine an accurate reading.
The first number indicates the pressure on the arteries when the heart squeezes out blood and is called the systolic blood pressure. The second or lower number refers to the pressure when the heart is relaxed between beats and is called the diastolic blood pressure.
If you smoke, have high cholesterol, are overweight or have diabetes you are at higher risk of having high blood pressure. Being older or male also puts you at higher risk and certain medications, including the contraceptive pill and some allergy medication, have been known to cause hypertension.
Hypertension is tricky to detect as it often doesn't produce any symptoms so it is best to get tested regularly. In order to prevent or manage high blood pressure it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, a balanced diet including salt-reduced food and limited alcohol intake (two drinks per day for men, one drink per day for women).
Is there anyone in your life who you are concerned may have high blood pressure? Encourage them to see their GP today!
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