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Blood Pressure

What you need to know about Blood Pressure!

For those of you who view our Facebook page regularly, we harp on all the time about blood pressure. But what exactly is it? What happens when it’s high? And what can we do to reduce our blood pressure?

Well, we’ve put together this helpful blood pressure factsheet to better your understanding and how you can make changes to your lifestyle to prevent any cardiovascular complications.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the amount of pressure that is placed on the vessels as the heart pumps blood around the body. Exercise Physiologists and Doctors use blood pressure readings to identify the risk for cardiovascular disease and to monitor your response to exercise.

How Is Blood Pressure Recorded?

Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers e.g. 120/80 mmHg.

  • The top number is what’s called the systolic pressure and is the pressure placed on the arteries when blood is ejected from the heart with each beat.
  • The bottom number is the diastolic pressure and is the pressure on the arteries when the heart is relaxed before the next beat.

Blood pressure can be categorized based on both the systolic and diastolic readings.

Blood Pressure

What effects Blood Pressure

There are various factors which influence blood pressure including:Your blood pressure does not stay the same all of the time: it constantly needs to change depending on the demands of your body.

  • Posture: lying down or standing
  • Our emotions, stress and anxiety
  • Pain
  • Sleep
  • Exercise/ Physical Activity
  • Medical conditions

Hypertension or High Blood Pressure

Hypertension may be caused by a number of factors, and may include:

  • Narrowing of the arteries due to fatty deposits
  • A larger blood volume than normal
  • The heart beating faster than it should.

Having high blood pressure means that the heart has to work harder than normal to transport blood around the body. If your blood pressure remains high for an extended period of time, other health problems can eventuate such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney disease.

Risk Factors

Many of the causes of hypertension are lifestyle behaviours which can be modified to reduce the risk of developing hypertension and cardiovascular disease throughout life.

Some of these factors include:

  • Overweight and obesity
  • Reduced levels of exercise and physical activity
  • High salt intake
  • High saturated fat intake
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • High Cholesterol

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors

  • Hereditary or genetic factors
  • Gender – males are generally at a greater risk

Effects of Hypertension

High blood pressure is often know as the “silent killer” generally because in the early stages symptoms may not present and may not be detected. This Initial damage from sustained high blood pressure can be reversed if you make changes to lower your blood pressure, however long term prolonged hypertension can cause significant damage to your heart, blood vessels and other organs of the body.

Other problems you might face can include:

  • Weakening of the blood vessels making them prone to rupture. This can occur in vessels of the brain which may result in a stroke.
  • Scarring of the vessels, due to tearing. These scars then act like nets and can result in an increase build up of fatty deposits.
  • Increase risk of blood clots. Like fatty deposits, blood cells can also become entrapped in scarred vessels. These build ups can then dislodge and block vessels in other parts of the body.
  • Reduce blood flow due to the narrowing of vessels.
  • Your tissue and organs will be damaged due to the narrowing of vessels and not enough oxygen being received.

Exercise as Intervention

Most often then not people with Hypertension are prescribed anti-hypertensive medications at low dosages. Exercise should be used in combination with this sort of treatment and your GP will monitor your medications periodically. There are numerous benefits of exercise for the treatment and management of Hypertension including

  • Preventative effect: reduced the risk of developing hypertension
  • Reduced resting and exercise blood pressure.
  • A reduction in systolic blood pressure by 5mmg reduces death due to stroke by 14% and coronary heart disease by 9%
  • Improved exercise tolerance
  • May reduce reliance on medications
  • Reduced breathlessness

What exercise should I be doing?

Whilst we do not know the exact type, frequency and duration of exercise that is optimal for blood pressure control, below you will find general guidelines for when it comes to exercising:

Exercise guidelines

We have also written a guide on resistance training which can be found here.

And if you have an additional health concern, we also have guides to the following:

Exercise & Osteoporosis

Asthma & Exercise

Nutrition & Exercise for Diabetes


Remember if you have any heart concerns which may need more tailored advice, speak to your GP or Exercise Physiologist. Our Exercise Physiologists can prescribe an exercise which is suitable to all your current health needs and your lifestyle.

Whelton PK, He J, Appel LJ, Cutler JA, Havas S, Kotchen TA, et al. Primary prevention of hypertension: clinical and public health advisory from The National High Blood Pressure Education Program. JAMA 2002;288(15):1882—8
Sharman JE, Stowasser M. Australian Association for Exercise and Sports Science Position Statement on Exercise ad Hypertension. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (2009) 12, 252—257 

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