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Blood Pressure Explained

Chronic high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can lead to serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure or kidney disease. 

Blood pressure is the force of the blood in the arteries as it is pumped through the circulatory system by your heart. Blood pressure changes to meet your body's requirements and is affected by many factors. Such factors include body position, physical activity, stress, sleep and hydration.

Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers, such as 120/80. The first figure refers to blood pressure during 'systole' and describes the pressure when the heart beats. The second figure refers to blood pressure during 'diastole' and describes the pressure while the heart relaxes and refills with blood before the next beat.

When blood pressure is consistently high (greater than 140/90) the heart is working too hard and blood pressure is considered hypertensive. 

Factors that increase an individuals risk of high blood pressure include: 

  • Overweight and obesity
  • High blood cholesterol
  • A large waist circumference
  • Consuming a diet high in sodium (salt)
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • Cigarette smoking

Ideally your resting blood pressure should be 120/80 or below.


It is important to have regular blood pressure checks and to consult with a medical professional to avoid complications associated with hypertension.

You can help to lower your blood pressure by making the following lifestyle changes:

  • Decrease the amount of sodium (salt) in your diet
  • Read food labels and be wary of products high in sodium such as some packaged sauces, soups and biscuits
  • Enjoy a healthy, balance diet in line with the Australian Dietary Guidelines
  • Be physically active everyday
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight and waist circumference
  • Limit your intake of alcohol

Visit the Heart Foundation for more information on heart health.