Blood pressure 101

What is blood pressure?

When your heart beats, it pumps blood round your body to give it the energy and oxygen it needs. As the blood moves, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels. The strength of this pushing is your blood pressure.

The numbers

Blood pressure is measured in ‘millimetres of mercury’ (mmHg) and is written as two numbers. For example, if your reading is 120/80mmHg, your blood pressure is ‘120 over 80’.

The first and larger number is your systolic blood pressure. It is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats.

1570-80; < Greek systolḗ a drawing up, contraction, equivalent to sy- sy- + stolḗ pressure, orig., garment, equipment, equivalent to stol- (noun derivative of stéllein to send, place) + feminine noun suffix; cf. diastole, systaltic

The second number is your diastolic blood pressure. It is the lowest level your blood pressure reaches as your heart relaxes between beats.

1570-80; < Late Latin diastolē < Greek diastolḗ a putting asunder, dilation, lengthening; compare diastéllein to set apart, equivalent to dia- dia- + stéllein to put, place

Why does Blood Pressure Increase during Exercise?

Due to the increased demand for oxygen during exercise the heart pumps more blood around your body with more powerful contractions which will make your blood pressure increase. Your systolic blood pressure increases during exercise as the cardiovascular system delivers more blood to the working muscles and your diastolic blood pressure stays roughly the same or decrease slightly.

High Systolic Blood Pressure during Exercise

A normal range for a systolic rate during exercise is between 160 and 220; if you are overweight the rise in blood pressure is somewhat higher. If you fall into the normal range and your pressure reaches 190 after exercising, this is a good cue that you will suffer from high blood pressure in the future. Weight lifters also have significantly higher systolic rates, this is because while they lift weights, there is a reduction in the amount of oxygen, because their muscles constrict. This requires the muscles and organs to get more oxygen rich blood.

High Diastolic Blood Pressure during Exercise

If you have high blood cholesterol levels, which is known as hypercholesterolemia, or coronary artery disease your diastolic rate can increase significantly while you are exercising. In most cases, the diastolic rate changes vary little if any while you exercise. If there is an increase, though of more than 20 mm hg or if the diastolic rate becomes 100 mm hg it is pertinent to discontinue exercise right away. .

Regular Exercise Can Lower High Blood Pressure

Regular exercise can help to lower your blood pressure, as long as you keep it up. That’s because exercises make the heart stronger so that the heart can pump more blood with less effort. It does take about 3 months initially for the exercise to begin to lower your blood pressure.

By maintaining exercising and being more active you can lower your systolic rate 4-9 mm Hg, which is more or the same as some of the prescription medications that the doctor would normally prescribe. Therefore, you can possibly just exercise and not have to take those medications. As we all know exercise is good for all of us for so many reasons and this is just another great reason to exercise regularly and not to stop, because if you discontinue the regular exercising, the blood pressure will jump right back up.