Blood Pressure : What You Need To Know


I think blood pressure can be underrated and perhaps not always all that well understood unless we somehow learn we have a problem with it. As I posted recently about 5 of the best blood pressure monitors, I thought I’d cover the basics when it comes to what you need to know about blood pressure.

What is blood pressure?

It may seem obvious, but understanding what blood pressure is and what the readings mean aren’t always things people know. Simply put, blood pressure is the strength that the heart is pumping the blood around your body. The blood then gives your body the oxygen and energy it needs for survival.

Pressure that’s too high or too low could be problematic, so it’s recommend to keep a track of you BP.

How it’s measured

Blood pressure can be taken by a medical professional or by yourself at home and it’s recorded in mmHg – millimetres or mercury. The reading comes out as two numbers. For instance, 110/90mmHg, or 110 over 90.

You can find out what your numbers mean most easily by referring to a blood pressure chart which shows the recommended low, normal / ideal and high levels.

What do your BP numbers actually mean?

These two numbers represent two different aspects of your blood pressure.

The top / first number is the systolic blood pressure. When your heart beats, this is the highest level your BP reaches.

The bottom / second number is the diastolic BP. This is the lowest level your BP reaches when your heart relaxes between beating.

What are the ideal and danger zones?

Generally speaking, these are what the UK NHS guidelines suggest for BP:

Normal / Ideal BP is between 90/60 and 120/80 mmHG

High BP is 140/90 mmHg and above

Low BP is 90/60 mmHg or less

You can also consult this rather neat chart to easily see where your systolic & diastolic ratings fall.

High Blood Pressure

High BP is referred to as hypertension.

High blood pressure can put a strain on your heart, blood vessels and other vital body organs. Various conditions can potentially arise if blood pressure is consistently high, including storke, heart attack, heart disease, aortic aneurysms, heart failure, peripheral arterial disease and kidney disease.

Symptoms & Risk Factors

Symptoms can include the likes of : Vision problems (blurred or double vision), chest pain, fatigue, frequent nosebleeds, breathing difficulties / shortness of breath, severe headaches, irregular heartbeat, a pounding you can feel in your chest/ears/neck.

There are a few things thought to increase the risk of high blood pressure, including :

  • If you’re a smoker
  • Don’t do very much exercise
  • Have a diet high in salt and low in veg/fruit
  • Are overweight/obese
  • Are over 65 years old
  • Have problematic sleep
  • Have relates with high BP

Reducing High Blood Pressure

The first port of call is usually to look at lifestyle changes to reduce blood pressure. For instance :

  • Increasing exercise
  • Cutting down on alcohol if you drink in excess
  • Stopping smoking
  • Getting better sleep & reducing caffeine intake
  • Reducing salt intake and improving diet to include more fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Medications, such as diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers may be advised for those at high risk of complications from high blood pressure.

Your GP is the best person to advise you on what’s best and whether medication may be recommended for lowering your blood pressure in addition to lifestyle and dietary changes.

Low Blood Pressure

Low BP is referred to as hypotension, and it’s not given as much airtime as high BP.

It’s often thought, when it comes to blood pressure, that the lower the better. However, very low blood pressure can be warning sign of something not quite right and constantly low BP can result in worrisome symptoms.

Symptoms of low BP

  • Fainting
  • A feeling of weakness and/or confusion
  • Vision being blurred
  • Feeling dizzy or light headed
  • Feeling nauseous

When you feel these symptoms as you stand up or change the position you’re in it’s often referred to as ‘postural hypotension’ (because the change in posture affects your BP).

Managing low BP

Your GP or specialist will be best placed to advise you on what changes would be best to increase or manage low blood pressure. However, medication should be reviewed to see whether this is a cause, and support wear (such as stockings) may be recommended to improve your circulation. When in hospital, I’ve also been told to ‘drink more water!’ as staying hydrated is important. Try to raise yourself from seating or standing slowly too to avoid dizziness.

Getting checked

Any time I’ve been in to hospital for surgery or to A&E, my blood pressure has been repeatedly taken. It can tell the nurses that something isn’t quite right, there and then. Blood pressure readings every few years or when medication is reviewed can also give a quick peak at what might be going on with your health in general. If you have health conditions, have been diagnosed with high, low or ‘risky’ (borderline high/low) blood pressure, then keeping a regular check is often advised. This can be done at your GP surgery, as well as part of a general NHS health check.

For regular tracking of your blood pressure, which will give a far better view of what’s going on with your health and your heart, it can be a good idea to be testing it yourself from the comfort of your own home. Tech advances have greatly improved the speed, accuracy and convenience of checking blood pressure to the point where one small device can automatically inflate your arm cuff and give you a reading with the touch of one button. It needn’t cost the earth either, and this way you can track your BP whenever you want, wherever you want. Here’s a rundown of 5 of the best blood pressure monitors and the one I’d recommend for a purse-friendly investment is what I bought my father, who has high BP, the Omron M2 Basic.




  1. March 3, 2018 / 3:56 pm

    This is great information. When I learned how to take blood pressures …back in the late 80’s we had to use a stethoscope and manual cuff! We would count the beats as we heard them start on a big gauge until they stopped! Sometimes I had to take those darn things two or three times because it was so difficult to hear… How far we have come! Have to share! ~Kim

    • March 5, 2018 / 4:15 pm

      I’ve had a few doctors still use the ‘old fashioned way’ when the cuff hasn’t been able to find my pulse! Definitely good (and quite impressive) how things have improved since then thanks to such wonderful advancements in science and technology. Thanks for sharing Kim! 🙂

  2. March 3, 2018 / 4:16 pm

    Very informative post on blood pressure 😊 Got to know few things that I didn’t know before 😊

    • March 5, 2018 / 3:59 pm

      That’s great! Thank you for taking the time to read & comment Megha 🙂

  3. March 3, 2018 / 6:21 pm

    You know what is interesting, I get my blood pressure taken several times when I get the monthly plasma transfers for my MS. Most of the time they are in the same range (110/68) but sometimes all three are distinctly different. Sometimes, but nor often, it is really high (for me) and once it was something like 98/59 and I freaked because I thought something terribly wrong. Of course, I had fallen asleep for a a few minutes and woke up when they took it

    • March 5, 2018 / 4:02 pm

      That is interesting, how they can be quite different. I can see what a reading like 98/59 would shock you if it’s usually a fair bit higher, but it makes sense when you realise it was because you’d been asleep for a few minutes! Makes quite a difference sometimes what you were doing just before the reading… Thanks for the comment, Steve, it’s much appreciated 🙂

  4. March 3, 2018 / 6:58 pm

    Such helpful advice Caz! Anything to do with how the body works is not easy to explain, but you did it in a nice, understandable way!

    • March 5, 2018 / 3:57 pm

      I’m glad you thought it was easy to read and understand, thank you! 🙂

  5. March 4, 2018 / 2:25 pm

    This was an incredible post with great and helpful information! I there are 2 reasons my blood pressure will increase, extreme pain and doctor’s appointments. You know I have been suffering from headaches a lot lately, which is probably the cause high blood pressure. Thank you so much for sharing this Caz ♡

    • March 5, 2018 / 3:52 pm

      Well, pain and having to see doctors will certainly do it! I’m glad you found the post insightful and thank you for taking the time to comment Alyssa! 🙂

  6. March 4, 2018 / 4:38 pm

    Great informative post! Thanks for sharing this Caz! 🙂

    • March 5, 2018 / 3:51 pm

      You’re welcome, I glad you found it informative! 🙂

  7. March 5, 2018 / 9:50 am

    Hello Caz,

    this is one wonderful post. I love it.I have read somewhere that the blood pressure limit has shifted . Previously,when I was younger high blood pressure was 130/90 and now, it seems that is normal blood pressure !

    Thank you

    • March 5, 2018 / 3:50 pm

      That’s interesting – I guess even standard ‘normal’ limits for things change over time as science and research make new discovers and adapt what was previously thought of as ‘ideal’. Thanks for the comment, Ben, I’m really glad you liked the post!

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