Health and lifestyle risks: blood pressure

Health and lifestyle risks: blood pressure

Hypertension Centre

Health and lifestyle risks: blood pressure

Ideally, your blood pressure readings should be 120/80 millimetres of mercury (mmHg). You’re at low risk if it’s 140/90, medium risk if it’s 140 to 150/90 to 99 and high risk if it’s 160/100. So, what does this really mean?

When your heart beats, it pumps blood through your body to give it the energy and oxygen it needs. As the blood moves, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels. The strength of this pushing is your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your arteries (and your heart) and this may lead to health problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

High blood pressure has many risk factors, including:

  • Age. Your risk of having high blood pressure increases with age. High blood pressure is common in men after age 45 and in women after age 65.
  • Race. High blood pressure is common among blacks, often developing at an earlier age than it does in whites. Serious complications, such as stroke, heart attack and kidney failure, are also more common in blacks.
  • Family history. High blood pressure tends to run in families.
  • Overweight. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls. In general, men’s waist measurement should be no more than 94cm and women’s no more than 80cm and your body mass index (BMI) should be between 18.5 and 24.99. If this measurement is over 30, you’re high risk.
  • Physical ability. To help avoid having high blood pressure, a person should do 30 minutes of cardio exercises three or more times per week, 5 to 10 strength exercises twice per week with 10 to 15 repetitions each and stretch regularly. For a 32 minute home workout, visit .
  • Smoking. Smoking is a leading cause of death through heart disease, strokes, respiratory disorders and cancers. Both active and passive smoking are regarded as high risk.
  • Salt. Too much salt in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.
  • Lack of sleep. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
  • Potassium. Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium (salt) in your cells. Insufficient potassium in your diet may result in too much sodium in your blood.
  • Vitamin D. Insufficient vitamin D may affect an enzyme produced by your kidneys that affects your blood pressure.
  • Alcohol. More than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women can affect blood pressure. For healthy adults, that means one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and two drinks a day for men aged 65 and younger.
  • Stress. High stress levels can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure.
  • Chronic conditions. Certain chronic conditions, such as kidney disease and sleep apnoea, may increase your risk of having high blood pressure. Pregnancy can also contribute to it.

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