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Blood pressure

Blood pressure is top priority

Blood pressure means the pressure inside your blood vessels. Your heart is like a pump that sends blood into your arteries.

Blood pressure readings are always given in a pair of numbers (e.g. 135/85 mmHg). The larger number is called the 'top number' and the smaller number the 'bottom number' (health care professionals talk about systolic pressure and diastolic pressure, respectively). It is important that the reading stays below 135/85 mmHg.

135/85 mmHg is a good indicator of whether your blood pressure is on a safe level. When your readings are higher than that, your blood pressure is elevated. Even if your blood pressure was elevated or even dangerously high, chances are you won't notice it in your daily life or feel it in your body in any way. A good parable is a tyre that expands when air is being pumped into it: when the pressure builds too much, the tyre may blow up. In this case, it is your brain that is in danger of blowing up.

Yes, indeed. Your brain. Continuous elevated blood pressure causes brittleness and a build-up of fatty matter in the blood vessels of the brain. That is why elevated blood pressure is the single most important treatable factor that exposes you to the risk of both a cerebral infarction and brain haemorrhage. Do not procrastinate! Take action and get your blood pressure under control.

Blood pressure is not always the same. It varies depending on the situation and the time of the day. During the night, blood pressure is usually 10–20 per cent lower than during the day. Strenuous exercise also elevates blood pressure, as do strong emotions, the joys and the worries of daily life. It is essential that blood pressure does not stay elevated but returns to normal when the stressful situation is over. That's why you should measure your blood pressure first thing in the morning or at a peaceful moment during the day.

The biggest reason behind elevated blood pressure is lifestyle choices. The good news is that you can make smarter choices and impact your blood pressure readings. The most notorious factors that elevate blood pressure are obesity, excessive salt intake, lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol as well as stress and depression. You would not perhaps expect it, but liquorice and salt liquorice also quite commonly elevate your blood pressure. In some cases, elevated blood pressure runs in the family. If you are unable to lower your blood pressure through lifestyle changes, do not hesitate to take blood pressure medication. It is a great way to protect your brain against more serious damage.

Low blood pressure

If you go see a physician about your low blood pressure, you are likely to get a pat on the back. If you are otherwise well, relatively young, perhaps lean to boot, and experience no dizziness, you have no cause for concern. Low blood pressure is mostly a health advantage, as you are better protected from atherosclerosis.

What is considered low blood pressure, then? For instance, 90/50 mmHg. With these levels, you may feel momentary dizziness when getting up fast or coming out of sauna.

If bouts of dizziness recur often and cause you concern, consult a physician. If necessary, medication with an aldosterone-like effect can be used. It’s not a good idea to consistently treat low blood pressure with salt or salty licorice. If they are suggested as treatment, ask why and consider carefully. Salt is bad for you, and not just because it elevates blood pressure.

For senior citizens, low blood pressure is often caused by a vascular or heart illness. Certain rare metabolic disorders can cause low blood pressure, but they typically have accompanying symptoms, such as severe fatigue and exhaustion.