Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is recorded as two figures:
- Systolic pressure: the pressure of the blood when your heart beats to pump blood out.
- Diastolic pressure: the pressure of the blood when your heart rests in between beats, which reflects how strongly your arteries are resisting blood flow.
Normal blood pressure is between 90/60 and 140/90. If you have a reading of 140/90 or more, you have high blood pressure (hypertension). People with a blood pressure reading under 90/60 have low blood pressure (hypotension).
High blood pressure is a common condition, in which your blood pressure is continually higher than the recommended level. The force of the blood against your artery walls is becoming so high, that it increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.
Low blood pressure, is where blood pressure in your arteries is abnormally low. It can restrict the amount of blood flowing to your brain and other vital organs, which can cause unsteadiness, dizziness or fainting. In severe cases, low blood pressure can even be life-threatening.
What causes hypertension
For most adults, there is no identifiable cause of high blood pressure, which tends to develop gradually over many years.
Sometimes an underlying condition or a medication can lead to an increase in blood pressure. These include:
- Adrenal gland tumors or thyroid problems
- kidney disease
- Conditions that affect the body’s tissue, such as lupus
- Certain congenital defects in blood vessels
- Certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants…
- Recreational drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines and crystal methamphetamine
- Alcohol abuse or chronic alcohol use
- Obstructive sleep apnea
High blood pressure has many risk factors, including:
- Age. The risk of high blood pressure increases as you age. High blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after age 65.
- Race. High blood pressure is particularly common among people of African or Caribbean origin
- Family history. If your parents have low blood pressure, you could inherit it from them.
- Being overweight or obese. The more you weigh the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. Moreover, being overweight forces your heart to work harder to pump blood around your body, which can raise your blood pressure.
- Not being physically active. People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates. The higher your heart rate, the harder your heart must work with each contraction and the stronger the force on your arteries.
- Smoking. The chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls. This can cause your arteries to narrow, increasing your blood pressure.
- Too much salt in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.
- Too little potassium in your diet. Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells, so you may accumulate too much sodium in your blood if you are having too little potassium.
- Drinking too much alcohol. Over time, heavy drinking can damage your heart.
- Stress. High levels of stress can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure.
What causes hypotension
The causes of low blood pressure can range from dehydration to serious medical or surgical disorders and include:
- Getting up after you sit or lie down. It happens when your body tells the brain that your blood pressure is too high when it's actually too low. This can cause a quick drop in blood pressure.
- After standing for a long time. This causes your brain to slow down the heartbeat, further reducing your blood pressure.
- Not drinking enough fluids (dehydration).
- Medicines, such as high blood pressure medicine or other heart medicines.
- Health problems such as thyroid disease, severe infection, hypoglycemia, bleeding in the intestines, or heart problems.
- Serious injury, shock or burn, particularly if you lose a lot of blood. Low blood pressure can also occur if you go into shock after a serious injury.
- Trauma, such as a major bleeding or a severe burn.
- Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). This causes your body to produce a large amount of histamine, which widens your blood vessels, leading to a sudden severe drop in blood pressure.
- Lack of nutrients in your diet. A lack of the vitamins B-12 and folate can lead to anemia, causing low blood pressure.
Symptoms & Health complications
Hypertension usually has no obvious symptoms and having your blood pressure measured is the only way to know if you have a normal blood pressure level.
However, when a person has a very high blood pressure, some of these symptoms can be experienced:
- a persistent headache
- blurred or double vision
- shortness of breath
Complications of high blood pressure
If untreated, high blood pressure can lead to serious diseases, such as :
- Cardiovascular diseases like stroke, heart attack, embolism, aneurysm
- Kidney failure
- Vision loss due to thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes
- Trouble with memory or understanding as uncontrolled high blood pressure may affect your ability to think, remember and learn.
Symptoms of low blood pressure include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Lack of concentration
- Blurred vision
- Cold, clammy, pale skin
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable (palpitations)
Complications of low blood pressure
Even moderate forms of low blood pressure can cause not only dizziness and weakness but also fainting and a risk of injury from falls.
Severe low blood pressure can deprive your body of enough oxygen to carry out its normal functions, leading to damage to your heart and brain.
Treatment & Prevention
These are lifesyle changes you can make to prevent and control high blood pressure:
- Losing weight if you need to
- Reducing the amount of salt you eat
- Exercising regularly as it lowers blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition. It can also help you lose weight, hence lowering your blood pressure.
- Eating a health, low-fat, balanced diet, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and lots of fibre. Get plenty of potassium, which can help prevent and control high blood pressure
- Stopping smoking
- Cutting down on caffeine
- Cutting down on alcohol
- Reducing stress. Practice techniques, such as muscle relaxation and deep breathing can help
- Getting plenty of sleep
Low blood pressure that doesn't cause signs or symptoms or causes only mild symptoms rarely requires treatment.
If you have symptoms, the following general lifestyle advices can often help limit them:
- Stand up gradually, particularly first thing in the morning. You can event try other physical movements first to increase your heart rate and the flow of blood around your body.
- Avoid standing for long periods of time.
- Wear support stockings. They can help improve circulation and increase blood pressure.
- Avoid caffeine at night, and limit your alcohol intake.
- Eat small, frequent meals rather than large ones to prevent low blood pressure after eating. Lying down after eating or sitting still for a while may also help.
- Increase your fluid intake. It will help by increasing the volume of your blood, which increases your blood pressure.
- Increase your salt intake.
- Change your medication.
- Treate any underlying health condition.
Herbs that contribute to blood pressure control
Jiaogulan stimulates the release of nitric oxide a natural vasodilator. If the vessels are relaxed, it is easier for the heart to pump blood throughout the body, which reduces blood pressure. It also mitigates the harm from arterial build up due to arteriosclerosis.
The main active ingredients of Jiaogulan are potent antioxidants, which support and strengthen blood vessels, encouraging optimal blood flow, and helping to maintain normal blood viscosity.
Mulberry leaves contain GABA (Gamma amino butyric acid), a compound that can lower blood pressure and increase blood circulation while strengthening blood vessel membranes.
They also contain resveratrol, an antioxidant that protects against stroke risk by altering molecular mechanisms in the blood vessels, potentiating production of the vasodilator hormone, nitric oxide.
A study showed that white mulberry can block some of the electrical impulses that cause cardiac contractions, resulting in lowered blood pressure.
It contains high levels of magnesium of potassium, which help control the electrical function of the heart, keeping the heart rate and blood pressure under control and promoting a regular heart beat.
Mangosteen aids in promoting red blood cells and prevents against anemia.
It improves the blood flow by causing dilation of blood vessels which protect us against certain diseases like atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, heart congestion and severe chest pains.