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What is blood pressure?

Chiropractor taking blood pressure

One of the simplest ways to check your heart health is to take your blood pressure. Typically, every GP reception has a machine where you can quickly pop in and have your blood pressure checked, or alternatively ask your Chiropractor on your next visit. We routinely check people's blood pressure during a new patient consultation if clinically relevant, or if we suspect that something isn't quite right on the day.

But, what is blood pressure? It is a measure of the force that your heart uses to pump blood around your body. It is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) using a sphygmomanometer (don't ask us to pronounce or sell it!). Two figures are given for example 120/80. The top number is called the "systolic" pressure - the force in which your heart pushes blood out and the bottom number is called the "diastolic" pressure - the measure of resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels between heartbeats.

The ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, while the target for people over the age of 80 years old is below 150/90mmHg. However, some people from African, Afro-Caribbean or South Asian heritage may have high blood pressure at a younger age and are encouraged to get their blood pressure checked earlier. Low blood pressure is considered a reading of 90/60mmHg and it typically does not cause any symptoms.

High blood pressure is considered to be anything higher than 140/90mmHg. If your reading is at this level or above we recommend that you speak with your GP as soon as possible. If your blood pressure is ever recorded at 180/120mmHg or higher call 999 or head to A&E especially, if you have chest pain, shortness of breath and/or symptoms of a stroke.


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