Your blood pressure reading is a reflection of how much work your heart is doing to pump your blood throughout your body.  The higher reading is called your systolic reading and is the pressure created when the heart contracts (which it does once every beat).  The lower reading is called your diastolic reading and shows the pressure when your heart is relaxed.  This is then described as a result like 120 over 80 or 120/80.  ie the higher (systolic) reading over the lower (diastolic) reading.


What happens to measure your blood pressure?


The person measuring your blood pressure can use a number of different sites.  The most common site is at the arm just above the elbow.  The wrist is also used by some monitors.  It is easiest to get an accurate reading if there are no clothes affecting the blood flow on the site being measured, so a short sleeved top is usually recommended.  In any non-urgent situation you will be asked to sit down and relax for 5 to 10 minutes before the blood pressure reading is carried out.  A cuff is placed over your arm and tightened.  Once the machine is turned on pressure will be applied all around your arm equally until the flow of blood is cut off.  The amount of pressure is gradually decreased and the machine records when blood starts to flow again (the systolic reading).  This seems to the patient like the pulse sound has returned.  The machine will continue to reduce the pressure applied until no more sounds can be heard.  This is when the blood is flowing freely once again (the diastolic reading).  The machine will display the results, usually along with the number of beats your heart makes per minute (your pulse).


What the results mean


It is important to remember that every little thing affects your blood pressure reading as your bodys needs change from one moment to the next.  Gender, age, fitness level, diet, illness, weight, smoking, medication and time of day all affect your blood pressure.  Exercise, laughing or talking also affect your blood pressure, as does being stressed.  White coat hypertension is a raised blood pressure reading because of being in the doctors office!


A good blood pressure reading is taken while you the patient are at rest.  If you are stressed or in a rush, or melting in the heat of a warm day your reading may be higher than your actual blood pressure at rest.  This is the reason one high blood pressure reading is rarely used to diagnose HYPERTENSION known to you and I as high blood pressure.


Normal blood pressure is around 120/80.  Ideal blood pressure a little lower at 115/75.  Upto 140/90 is accepted as normal range aswell.


Low blood pressure of under 100/60 might need investigation by the pharmacist.  At this level oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood may not be reaching all the body’s tissues.  This may lead to symptoms such as


  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Blackouts or
  • Confusion.

Low blood pressure is not a disease, but a symptom of something else.  Most sufferers will notice a reason for their dizziness like


  • not eating for a few hours or
  • not drinking enough fluids or
  • standing up very quickly or
  • having a hot bath.

 How might you prevent these dizzy spells?


-Keep yourself well hydrated especially in hot weather.  Remember caffeine reduces the amount of fluids you have so excess consumption should be avoided.  If you have ever been lucky enough to holiday somewhere warm, espresso is served with a glass of water, to avoid dehydration.


-Do not leave really long periods of time without eating.  It may be as simple as having some fruit always to hand.  A quarter of an orange is a great way to make sure your sugar levels do not drop between meals or on a hectic day.


-When standing up, do it gradually to allow your body time to pump blood to your brain.  If you feel dizzy sit again, and then get your blood pumping by wiggling your toes or swinging your legs.  Then slowly try again.


If you still feel these dizzy spells please approach the pharmacist or your GP.  If you are on medication ask the pharmacist if it might be causing your dizzy spells.  If you have lost a lot of weight recently again check with your pharmacist or doctor if any of your medication doses may need adjusting.  Never ever change the way you take your medication without asking your health professional FIRST!


What can I do to get my blood pressure slightly lower?


Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.  (BMI between 19.5 and 24.9)


For every quarter stone you are overweight, the systolic (or higher) reading goes up by 1-3mmHg.  In reality this means that your heart has to work harder because there is more body for it to pump the blood to.  If you have not exercised in a while you should discuss an excercise plan with a health professional before starting a new excercise routine.


Reduce the amount of caffeine you are consuming.  This is especially important for those on more than two cups of coffee, tea or cola per day.  Use decaffeinated coffee and decaffeinated tea or a caffeine free cola.  An easy way to do this is switching to herbal teas or water.