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Blood Pressure

What does my score mean?

Compare your scores with the table below*. Use the highest of your two numbers to work out your classification. If high, try retesting in a quiet place.

Systolic BP Diastolic BP Action
Low BP <90 >60
Optimal BP 120 80
Normal BP 100 – 139** 60-89
High – normal 130-139 85 – 89
Grade 1 hypertension 140 – 159 90 – 99 see GP for recheck
Grade 2 hypertension moderate 160 – 179 100 – 109 see GP ASAP & refer to OH
Grade 3 hypertension severe >180 >110 see GP or A&E same day & refer to OH

**Diabetes sufferers should aim to keep their BP below 130/80mmHg.

What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure (BP) is the pressure exerted by circulating blood upon the walls of blood vessels:

Systolic – This is the peak pressure exerted on the walls of the arteries as the blood pumps away from the heart. The walls of the arteries expand as the blood is forced through them.
Diastolic – As the heart relaxes between beats and refills with blood ready for the next beat, the
arteries contract and the blood is moved around.
Resting heart rate – The number of times the heart beats every minute when relaxing. At rest the heart normally beats about 72 times per minute. The lower the score, the fitter the individual usually is.

Changes in your blood pressure
Blood pressure changes throughout the day according to the level of the individual’s activity. It is normally at its lowest in the latter part of the sleep period.

High blood pressure
High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease or stroke. If your blood pressure is consistently high, it will need to be treated either by making changes to your lifestyle or by taking medication. If your blood pressure is consistently above 140/90mmHg see your GP.

Low blood pressure
If your blood pressure is naturally low, it is unlikely that it will cause you any symptoms or require treatment. However, if your blood pressure is consistently below 90/60mmHg see your GP.

Managing blood pressure
1000’s of people each year could be saved from a heart attack or stroke if they managed their blood pressure more efficiently. Here are some things you can do:
• Manage your stress levels
• Maintain a healthy weight (if you are overweight, losing 10kg can reduce your BP by about 5mmHg)
• Stop smoking
• Do not add salt during cooking or at the table. Reducing salt by 5g a day can lower BP by approximately 5mmHg. Aim for less than 6g a day.
• Regular moderate – intensity exercise
• Diabetics or those diagnosed with high BP, must be under GP care.
• Healthy use of alcohol. The NHS recommend men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day and women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day. If you’ve consumed a large amount of alcohol, avoid alcohol for 48 hours.

It remains the responsibility of each individual to inform their GP of their BP readings, and if appropriate their line manager too.

1. Guidelines Committee (2003) European Society of Hypertension: European Society of Cardiology guidelines for the management of arterial hypertension. J. Hypertens. 21, 1011-1053.