What is blood pressure and why does it matter?
We’ve likely all experienced having our blood pressure taken by either an automated machine or a manual cuff with a stethoscope used by a health care professional.
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force at which blood is travelling through your arteries. Blood is pumped throughout the body by the heart. When the heart pumps or contracts (or “beats”), it is called systole. When the heart relaxes between pumps, it is called diastole. Blood pressure is measured using two numbers (for example, 120/80 mmHg). The top number (120) is called the systolic number because it is the force at which blood is travelling when the heart pumps. The bottom number (80) is called the diastolic number because it is the force at which blood is travelling when the heart relaxes between pumps.
Why is high blood pressure bad?
When blood pressure is high, the heart has to work even harder to pump the blood throughout the body. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada) states that “High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart disease.”
It is very important to have your blood pressure monitored regularly by a health care professional. This is especially true if you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease as you are at increased risk for complications from high blood pressure.
For more information on high blood pressure including blood pressure guidelines and strategies for controlling blood pressure, visit The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s High Blood Pressure webpage and/or the American Heart Association’s The Facts About High Blood Pressure webpage.