Blood Pressure

What is it?   High BP   Low BP

Blood pressure measuring

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force exerted on the flowing blood by the pumping action of the heart muscles when the blood is pushed through the arteries to carry it from the heart to various parts of the body. Blood pressure is measured with the starting point as zero on the ambient atmospheric pressure.

Doctors measure blood pressure as two parts, namely systolic and diastolic. The former shows the maximum pressure when the heart pumps the blood out, and the latter shows the minimum pressure of blood when the heart is relaxed for a moment before the next pumping action starts. In healthy persons the pressure ranges from 90 to 119 systolic and 60 to 79 diastolic (Blood Pressure UK).

Blood pressure varies from person to person and even in the same person, from time to time. It is also known to show a slight rise as age advances in healthy individuals.

Blood pressure is also known to increase, temporarily, in perfectly healthy individuals during physical exercise (see ptdirect), childbirth (see Edwards, EM) or emotional excitement (see Don P Morris). In normal healthy persons such rise in blood pressure has beneficial functional value. For example, when a healthy person has raised heart beat (and raised blood pressure) for a brief time after a run or brisk walk, it actually helps the oxygenated blood to be speedily circulated to the exercising muscles and take back the impure blood to the lung for purification. It is the same with normal rise in blood pressure during childbirth.

As such, no qualified, well-experienced and unbiased physician would consider it malfunctioning of the heart and resort to medical intervention if a person has a normal rise in blood pressure while exercising or delivering a baby. Therefore it is advisable that you take expert medical opinion when you have raised blood pressure for whatever reason it may be.

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I. Hypertension or High Blood Pressure

When the blood pressure rises and stays for long periods above 119 systolic and 80 diastolic it comes into the category of raised blood pressure. Raised blood pressure is divided into two stages as below.

1. Pre-high blood pressure or Prehypertension

Here the blood pressure reading is consistently 120 – 139 systolic and 80 – 89 diastolic. While this condition may not cause perceptible illness, it could be the precursor of high blood pressure (next). Therefore those who have pre-high blood pressure must monitor their general health and blood pressure regularly.

Treatment for Prehypertension

You should consult your physician and follow his/her advice. The following discussion is only for your personal knowledge.

As per medical opinion (Harward Medical School), prescribing hypertension pills is not advisable in most cases of blood pressure that  does not exceed pre-hypertension level. For most prehypertensives, treatment should depend on lifestyle changes, not medications. Lifestyle changes, exercises (physical and breathing), changes in food habits and psychological counselling have great therapeutic value for this group of persons (Harward Medical School, WebMD etc). If they are administered pills, instead, to control prehypertension, they may even get hooked for life and end up having to take pills everyday.

Also read Gasperin et al for information on hypertension caused by mental stress. Experts will be able to guide those under this category to follow these and save themselves from reaching the next stage of blood pressure, which is described below.  

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2. High blood pressure or Hypertension

Here the systolic reading is consistently above 139 and diastolic, above 89. High blood pressure may affect some of the vital organs in the body such as kidney, heart (heart attack), arteries and brain (stroke). According to a recent report by the WHO, about one-third of the adults worldwide have raised blood pressure; and about half of the deaths from stroke and heart disease are caused by hypertension. Approximately 7.5 million deaths in the year 2004, which amounts to about 13% of all global deaths are said to be attributed to this disease.

High Blood Pressure can be compared to high body temperature because both are signs or symptoms of some other problem in the body. The only difference is that whereas the cause of high body temperature can be determined in most cases, the cause of high blood pressure is unknown in more than 90 percent of the cases. All the same, both high temperature as well as high blood pressure beyond a certain point can cause major health problems, hence require to be kept within safe limits, as an immediate and first step. But one must not stop with that. Skilled doctors will always get to the root of the problem and make an honest attempt to solve it for the ultimate welfare of the patient.

Symptoms of High Blood pressure

It is understood that high blood pressure is usually not indicated  by any signs or symptoms until it rises very high or causes some serious damage to the body. Since  stroke, coronary heart disease and kidney damage are reported to be caused by high blood pressure, doctors often advise that every individual above the age of 50 should undergo routine blood pressure check up.

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Causes of high blood pressure

Medical experts have divided the cases of raised blood pressure into two broad categories based on the causes.

Category 1. Causes ‘unknown’

The current medical knowledge is unable to pinpoint the exact causes of raised blood pressure in more than 90 percent of the cases. For additional information you may visit the following websites.

Medical experts speculate that cases of high blood pressure grouped under this category could be caused by genetic, lifestyle or other factors including tensions and stress.

Mental Stress causing Hypertension

It has been demonstrated that ‘Individuals with high increases of blood pressure during stressful (mental) tasks and those with high blood pressure in the recovery period after the tasks showed greater odds of developing hypertension or increased blood pressure’ (Gasperin et al). You may also consult this source for general information on stress and raised blood pressure.

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Treatment for Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

You should consult your physician and follow his/her advice. The following discussion is only for your personal knowledge.

A. By medication

Doctors advice all those experiencing high blood pressure (systolic above 139 and diastolic, above 89 ) to undergo medication to bring down the pressure in order to avoid life-threatening issues such as stroke, heart attack and kidney damage. Consult your doctor who knows your case history, for advice.

B. Non-pharmaceutical therapy such as exercises and changes in life-style and food habits, which are suggested for pre-hypertension cases are equally useful for high blood pressure patients as well, in order to improve the existing situation or to prevent further deterioration. 

Category 2. Causes known

The causes are pretty well established in at least about 5 percent of the cases of high blood pressure; and cases under this ‘category’ of  hypertension are potentially curable. Drs Viera and Neutze list the major causes for this category of hypertension as below:

  1. Narrowing of the Aorta (Coarctation of the aorta)
  2. Narrowing of the Renal artery (Renal artery stenosis)
  3. Thyroid disorders
  4. Aldosteronism (A condition caused by overproduction of the hormone aldosterone)
  5. Obstructive sleep apnea
  6. Pheochromocytoma (Vascular tumour of the adrenal gland)
  7. Cushing syndrome (A glandular disorder caused by excessive cortisol)
  8. ‘Select drugs that may elevate blood pressure’: Oral contraceptives, certain herbs, amphetamines, cocaine, cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors, ibuprofen, naproxen (Naprosyn), buspirone (Buspar), carbamazepine (Tegretol), clozapine, fluoxetine (Prozac), lithium and tricyclic antidepressants, certain steroids (methylprednisolone, prednisone), decongestants and diet pills.

It is interesting to note while reading the medical literature that coronary heart disease and kidney damage, which are said to cause hypertension (Viera and Neutze), are also mentioned as the result of hypertension (NHS Choices).

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II. Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension)

In low blood pressure, the reading is consistently below 90 systolic and below 60 diastolic.


Low blood pressure may manifest a combination of two or more of the following symptoms. (from multiple sources)

  • dizziness
  • loss of balance or unsteady feeling
  • fainting
  • fuzzy vision
  • rapid, or irregular heartbeat (palpitation)
  • confusion
  • vomiting sensation
  • feeling weak

Since these symptoms may also be caused by some other illnesses, physical verification of blood pressure is necessary.

It is noted that low blood pressure can also occur without showing any symptoms and this may be normal in some persons. However, it is always advisable to consult your physician in order to learn the causes and treatment if required.


Low blood pressure, which may affect health, is caused by factors such as some illnesses, certain medications, some injuries and shock or other causes including heredity (NHS).

Treatment for Hypotension

Consult your doctor

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