Understanding blood pressure

Understanding our health and how our bodies work can be difficult sometimes. Blood pressure is easy to understand, as long as you have clear and simple information.

Read all about the role of the heart and what that means for blood pressure here.

What is blood pressure?

Your heart pumps blood around your body. This is to deliver oxygen and nutrients to different organs.

Blood pressure is the force your heart uses to pump blood through your arterial blood vessels.

How is blood pressure measured?

We use two numbers when measuring blood pressure: the systolic and diastolic blood pressure.


This is the higher number and it measures when your heart beats (or contracts) to pump blood around your body.


This is the lower number and counts when your heart relaxes between beats.

Blood pressure monitor with 120 over 80 reading. 120 is the Systolic number and 80 is the diastolic number

What causes blood pressure?

Sometimes it is not clear what causes high blood pressure, but there are factors that increase your risk. These are…

  • Being overweight
  • Not being active
  • Not having enough sleep
  • Eating too much salt
  • Not eating enough fruit or vegetables
  • Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine

High blood pressure is more common if you are of black African, black Caribbean descent or South Asian. It sometimes runs in families and can increase as you get older.

What are the risks of high blood pressure?

High blood pressure does not usually have noticeable symptoms. But if it is not treated it can damage your blood vessels, heart and other organs.

It can lead to…

  • Heart disease, heart attack or stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Problems with your eyesight
  • Vascular dementia

If you have high blood pressure, reducing it even a small amount can help to lower your risk of these health problems.

High blood pressure is dangerous as it typically has no symptoms or warning signs

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