What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force that pushes oxygen-rich blood all around your body. As your heart pumps it generates the force that allows the blood to flow through arteries and other blood vessels to reach all body parts.
Your blood pressure level is determined by two factors:
- How forcefully your heart’s main pump chamber (left ventricle) contracts and
- By the stiffness and diameter of your arteries
These two factors are in turn influenced by other various factors such as genes, hormones, metabolism, lifestyle and more. Due to this, your blood pressure can and will vary many times during the day and even more so during your whole life.
Blood pressure has two components:
- Systolic blood pressure: this is the higher number that is recorded while your heart is pumping blood into your arteries.
- Diastolic blood pressure: this is the lower number that is recorded when your heart is relaxing and refilling with blood between the beats.
Among adults, normal blood pressure means that your reading is between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg (systolic/diastolic). According to newer guidelines, a systolic blood pressure reading of 120-129 suggests that you may have elevated blood pressure.
The NHS states that hypertension (high blood pressure) is considered at a reading of 140/90mmHg (NHS, 2019).
Hypertension has severe consequences. In America, it contributes to one in every six deaths among adults. Since it involves the heart and blood vessels, hypertension is thought of as cardiovascular disease. However, as arteries are crucial for the health of all our organs, it is a multisystemic disease.
In fact, in many cases, hypertension can severely affect not just the heart but also the eyes, kidneys and especially the brain.
A study in 2016 found that hypertension is present in up to 84% of patients with acute stroke (McManus and Liebeskind, 2016). There are two most common types of strokes – Ischemic and haemorrhagic.
Haemorrhagic stroke: This type of stroke is not as common, but they usually cause the most serious symptoms. They occur when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and spills blood into the brain or the surrounding fluid. The most common cause of haemorrhagic stroke is uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Ischemic stroke: This type of stroke accounts for around 87% of all strokes (stroke.org, 2021). An ischemic stroke occurs when an artery that is responsible for supplying the brain with blood gets blocked by a clot. This can occur in one of two ways:
- A thrombotic stroke forms in a diseased artery within the brain.
- An embolic stroke occurs when a clot forms outside of the brain, breaks away and is then carried to the brain via the blood where it gets stuck in an artery.
Each of these types of strokes has a milder version. Major haemorrhagic strokes cannot be overlooked however there have been many MRI studies that show small microbleeds which are much more common (Haller et al., 2018).
On a similar note, many people may have small scale ischemic strokes which are known as lacunar strokes. While neither microbleeds nor lacunar strokes may produce significant symptoms, a series of these conditions will impair cognitive function (Martinez-Ramirez et al., 2014, Lee et al., 2018).
According to a study by the American Heart Association with >1.5 million brain scans performed each year for headaches alone in the United States, many patients will have incidentally detected silent cerebrovascular disease. These are particularly common among those aged 60 and over if they have hypertension (Smith et al., 2017).
A study from the last decade has found that people who have high blood pressure are at an increased risk of developing brain tumours.
The researchers analysed data from around 580,000 people whose medical data was tracked for 10 years. People were aged around 41 at the start of the study and the typical age of diagnosis was 56 for a brain tumour.
The most common type of brain tumours diagnosed was meningioma and glioma. One of the conclusions drawn from this study said that 20% of the participants with the highest blood pressure readings were more than twice at risk of being diagnosed with a brain tumour later in life than the 20% with the lowest readings.
Of course, more detailed research spanning a longer time and different geographical locations should be explored. However, the link between high blood pressure and the risk of developing brain tumours is there.
How to reduce blood pressure?
So that’s the bad news. The good news is that treating and preventing hypertension is easy. Results from a study showed that reducing systolic blood pressure by 10mmHg reduced stroke by 41% in most cases and generally, high blood pressure is the most important modifiable risk factor of stroke (Gaciong et al., 2013, Oparil et al., 2019).
However, the question remains: What can I do to reduce blood pressure? Here are some things that you can start with:
- Improve your diet: If you reduce your sodium (salt) intake to less than 2,300 mg per day and increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains will improve your diet and through that, you can reduce systolic blood pressure by 10-22 mmHg (Kubala, 2020).
- Increase activity levels: Moderate or intense physical activity is great for your body and many doctors recommend following the recommended weekly guidelines. regular physical exercise results in an average decrease of 3–5 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure (Fagard, 2005).
- Reduce stress: There have been many studies done showing how stress affects heart, blood, and brain health. Read our article on stress and CEO health here for more information.
- Reduce alcohol intake: Studies have shown that binge drinking influences blood pressure, especially among men (Piano et al., 2018).
- Talk to your doctor: If you are having any problems, always talk to your doctors. They will be able to offer you advice or health assessments tailored specifically to you.
To get ahead of all the issues, work with your family and your doctors to improve your lifestyle. It will take patience, but it will help your health in the future.
Health assessments at Echelon Health
At Echelon Health we understand that everyone wants to live a long and healthy life. Unfortunately, a lot of us will not recognise that something is wrong until symptoms become noticeable.
However, thanks to the new technology in MRI, CT and Ultrasound preventive health assessments are carried out with precision never seen before. They can detect and discover many diseases at their earliest stage.
Many diseases are highly preventable in a lot of cases if caught early enough; Echelon Health screens for and detects up to 94% of diseases that lead to premature death.
Preventive Health Assessments are important even if you are symptom-free and usually, hypertension is not noticeable for many people until they check their blood pressure. At Echelon Health we offer many packages, including our fully comprehensive Platinum Assessment in which the following tests are performed:
- Medical Questionnaire & Pre-Assessment
- Blood Tests
- CT Aorta
- CT Heart
- CT Coronary Angiogram
- CT Chest
- CT Pelvis
- CT Virtual Colonoscopy
- CT Bone Density
- CT Upright Skeleton
- MRI Brain
- MRI Cerebral Artery Angiogram
- MRI Carotid Artery Angiogram
- MRI Prostate
- Ultrasound Thyroid
- Ultrasound Testes/ Ovaries
- Digital Mammogram
- Full Body Mole Screen
- Final Consultation
These tests help detect various heart diseases including coronary heart disease, atheroma, and more. When it comes to our Platinum Assessment, we provide the gold standard. Nothing in the assessment is based on statistical risk analysis; the tests look inside the individual and provide them with personal insight into their own body.
If you have any questions contact our team or check out our brochure for more information on all the health assessments we offer!
Let us help you protect your most valuable asset.
NHS (2019). High blood pressure (hypertension). Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/ (Accessed 28/10/2021).
Stroke.org, (2021). Types of Stroke and Treatment. Available at: https://www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke/types-of-stroke (Accessed 28/10/2021).
Martinez-Ramirez, S., Greenberg, S. M., & Viswanathan, A. (2014). Cerebral microbleeds: overview and implications in cognitive impairment. Alzheimer’s research & therapy, 6(3), 1-7.
Lee, J., Sohn, E. H., Oh, E., & Lee, A. Y. (2018). Characteristics of cerebral microbleeds. Dementia and neurocognitive disorders, 17(3), 73-82.
Haller, S., Vernooij, M. W., Kuijer, J. P., Larsson, E. M., Jäger, H. R., & Barkhof, F. (2018). Cerebral microbleeds: imaging and clinical significance. Radiology, 287(1), 11-28.
Smith, E. E., Saposnik, G., Biessels, G. J., Doubal, F. N., Fornage, M., Gorelick, P. B., … & Seshadri, S. (2017). Prevention of stroke in patients with silent cerebrovascular disease: a scientific statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke, 48(2), e44-e71.
McManus, M., & Liebeskind, D. S. (2016). Blood pressure in acute ischemic stroke. Journal of Clinical Neurology, 12(2), 137-146.
Gaciong, Z., Siński, M., & Lewandowski, J. (2013). Blood pressure control and primary prevention of stroke: summary of the recent clinical trial data and meta-analyses. Current hypertension reports, 15(6), 559-574.
Oparil, S., Acelajado, M. C., Bakris, G. L., Berlowitz, D. R., Cífková, R., Dominiczak, A. F., Grassi, G., Jordan, J., Poulter, N. R., Rodgers, A., & Whelton, P. K. (2018). Hypertension. Nature reviews. Disease primers, 4, 18014.
Fagard, R. H. (2005). Effects of exercise, diet and their combination on blood pressure. Journal of human hypertension, 19(3), S20-S24.
Piano, M. R., Burke, L., Kang, M., & Phillips, S. A. (2018). Effects of Repeated Binge Drinking on Blood Pressure Levels and Other Cardiovascular Health Metrics in Young Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011‐2014. Journal of the American Heart Association, 7(13), e008733.
Kubala, J. (2020). The 17 Best Foods for High Blood Pressure. HealthLine. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-high-blood-pressure (Accessed 28/10/2021).