How To Measure Your Blood Pressure

measuring blood pressure

Doctors increasingly tell people with health issues to get active. While it was previously thought that people with high blood pressure should avoid exercise, it is now recognised that exercise will improve the overall cardiovascular system and can help control obesity.

Elevated blood pressure – or hypertension – is becoming increasingly common.  It is estimated that around 1 in 7 people will suffer from high blood pressure in our lives.  There are many causes of elevated blood pressure, but fortunately, you can take a number of simple steps to reduce it.

Why Is High Blood Pressure An Issue?

The reason that doctors consider high blood pressure to be a problem is that it is often seen to be a good indication of the overall condition of the cardiovascular system.  Hypertension is a measure of the pressure in the cardiovascular system, and is often caused by narrowing of the arteries around the heart – it can lead to heart attack when the arteries supplying the heart become blocked, or else a stroke if the blood supply to the brain becomes blocked.

In addition, although hypertension typically causes no symptoms, over a period of years it causes damage to the arteries and places strain on the heart and other organs – it is considered to be a major risk factor for not just coronary diseases and stroke, but also retina and kidney damage. 

What Affects Your Blood Pressure?

However, it is important to remember that one high blood pressure reading does not mean you are suffering from hypertension – there are numerous factors that can affect your blood pressure, including pain, having eaten recently, smoking, drinking, exercise, certain medications, excitement or anxiety.

Hypertension is thus defined as a sustained, elevated blood pressure.  In reality, doctors often don’t know the cause of high blood pressure, but factors that seem to be involved include genetics (it often runs in families), excessive sodium intake, poor diet, obesity, insulin resistance, lack of physical activity, and stress or anxiety.

Lifestyle Choices & Exercising

Although you can’t do anything about your genetics, almost all the other contributing factors are due to lifestyle choices.  Lowering stress and improving diet will both go a long way towards reducing your blood pressure, as will exercise.  Research shows that both systolic and diastolic blood pressure can be lowered by regular exercise.  The general guidelines for someone with elevated blood pressure are:

  • Unless previous clearance has been given by your GP, do not exercise if you have a bloods pressure of 180/100mmHg before exercise
  • Based on the recommendations of The American College of Sports Medicine, exercising at a lower intensity is at least as effective in lowering BP and is safer than more intense exercise
  • In addition to cardiovascular exercise, include strength training (resistance) exercises.  Focus on muscular endurance – low resistance and higher reps – rather than trying to push big weights
  • Be sure to breath regularly while exercising – avoid holding your breath
  • Avoid isometric exercises
  • As both heart rate and BP are more elevated when the upper body is used, avoid intensive arm work, particularly those performed above the head

Testing Your Blood Pressure

When getting your blood pressure test taken you will hear two figures used to describe it. This is the systolic (higher value) over diastolic (lower value). Systolic is the force in which the blood is being pumped from the heart against the artery walls. In a blood pressure test, diastolic is the most important reading as it is the pressure in the arteries between heart beats (relaxation phase).

Blood pressure test kits can be purchased cheaply in fitness shops, Boots, Argos etc and a good item to have at home if you are concerned. If you suffer low blood pressure, check with your GP in case of any underlying medical conditions. Borderline results can be caused by some of the factors mentioned in the blood pressure section of this site, however, if you are concerned see your GP. If your results are in the high ranges wait 2-3 minutes and re-test, if after 3 tests you are still getting high results consult your GP as soon as possible.

Tips When Taking The Test

Rest for 2-3 minutes prior to taking the test. Sit down with the legs out-stretched, relax arm on a table. Do not smoke or drink before the test or partake in any exercise.

You Might Like

  • How To Look After Your Heart

    Doctors are urging us to know more about our blood pressure and cholesterol so that we can better predict cardiovascular disease.But how can we do this and why is it important?
  • How To Keep Your Heart Young

    We all know that living a sedentary lifestyle can be really bad for our hearts. But research suggests that if we exercise properly before the age of 65 we can rejuvenate out hearts.
  • How Exercise In Old Age Can Protect Our Immune System

    Keeping fit in old age can be just as important to our immune system as for our weight and mental health. Read our guide to see how you can make some simple changes.
  • How Lemons Can Help You Revise

    Its that time of year again when revision fever hits. New research suggests that there are ways you can maximise your revision time and they include smelling lemons!
  • How Skiing Can Improve Your Health & Lifestyle

    When you head off for your winter holiday, do you know how skiing and boarding can help to improve your health and even your lifestyle? Find out more.

Useful Websites

Add Your Site Here
  • Universal Medical ID UK
    Universal Medical ID UK provides medical jewellery, medical bracelets and medical necklaces that are customisable and affordable.
  • Expatriate Health Insurance
    Global health insurance specialists for expatriates, with award winning customer service.
  • Medical Technician Guide
    Directory of accredited medical technician schools and colleges.
  • Lastrap Medical Supports
    Recommended by Doctors for many types of joint pain including tennis elbow, back pain, knee pain and much more. Back Supports, Tennis elbow supports, shoulder supports, wrist supports
  • Liberty Medicare
    A leading provider of diabetes supplies and respiratory medications and supplies, they also supply blood glucose meters, test strips, lancets, syringes, insulin pumps and more
  • International Expat Healthcare Insurance
    Leading providers of international healthcare insurance for expats living and working abroad.
  • Add Your Website Here