Your weight can influence your health in many ways, such as your energy levels, mood and risk of chronic disease. Research has also found a link between weight and blood pressure, with a BMI in the overweight or obese range increasing your risk of developing high blood pressure, which carries its own risks to your health.
Blood pressure - explained
Blood pressure is the force of your blood as your heart pumps it around your body. It is composed of two numbers, which measure the systolic and diastolic pressure of your blood, measured in mmHg.
For example a blood pressure reading might be 120/80. The top number is the systolic pressure, and the bottom number is the diastolic pressure.
Systolic blood pressure
The systolic reading is a measure of the pressure in your arteries as your heart pumps out blood on each beat, in mmHg. This is an indicator of the force the heart exerts on the walls of your artery each time it beats. A higher number indicates more force is being exerted, which over time, can damage the walls of the arteries.
Diastolic blood pressure
The bottom number is the diastolic pressure which measures the pressure in your arteries in between each beat, when your heart relaxes. This is the point of the lowest pressure and where your heart is at rest and filling with blood.
As you can imagine, the systolic pressure is always higher, as it takes more pressure to push the blood from your heart around your body.
Your blood pressure will naturally vary throughout the day and depending on what you are doing. For example, your blood pressure can increase while exercising. So it’s important when measuring your blood pressure to do so at consistent times to be able to compare results.
How to measure your blood pressure
You can get your blood pressure checked when you see your doctor, or at a pharmacy. When you get your blood pressure taken, the clinician (either a doctor, nurse or pharmacist) will wrap a cuff around your arm. The cuff will inflate, and then deflate. Sometimes the clinician might take a second, or even third reading.
How to interpret your blood pressure results
Generally if your systolic pressure (the top number) is higher than 140, or your diastolic pressure (the lower number) is higher than 90, this could indicate you have hypertension. Hypertension increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Your doctor will advise you what your ideal blood pressure should be based on your health and circumstances.
What is considered high blood pressure?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is when your blood pressure is consistently higher than the average range, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood around the body.
Risks of high blood pressure
High blood pressure can result in developing a range of conditions such as heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease, eye disease, erectile dysfunction and other conditions.
While blood pressure tends to increase with age, it doesn't mean that it is without risks. As we age, our artery walls stiffen, which forces the heart to pump harder. The heart then may become less effective, and has to pump harder to deliver blood around the body. This can lead to further damage to the arteries and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as strokes.
Often, high blood pressure has no visible symptoms, so it’s important to get it regularly checked, particularly if you are overweight. If you do have high blood pressure, there are lifestyle changes you can make to manage it.
Tips to keep blood pressure in a healthy range
Some people can successfully lower their blood pressure by making lifestyle changes.
- Quitting smoking
- Keeping weight within a healthy range
- Limiting alcohol consumption. That’s 2 standard drinks per day for men, 1 standard drink per day for women, plus 2 alcohol free days per week.
- Regular exercise. Aim for 30 minutes on most days.
- Ensuring your diet is high in fibre, low in salt with plenty of potassium-rich foods
Foods to lower blood pressure
Studies have shown that increasing fibre intake, reduces the risk of developing hypertension. Additionally, eating high-fibre foods make us feel more satisfied and full, which is beneficial for weight loss.
High-fibre foods include fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Tips to increase fibre intake:
- Choose grainy, seedy bread over white bread
- Add a sprinkle of nuts to your morning cereal
- Aim to have at least 3 different types of vegetables with your lunch
- Snack on fruit or grainy crackers with hummus
A high intake of salt is associated with high blood pressure. Most of the salt in our diet comes from packaged foods. You will notice on food labels that salt is listed as ‘sodium’.
Tips to reduce salt intake:
- Put the salt shaker away. Avoid using salt in cooking and at the table. This includes all forms of salt including pink salt, garlic salt and onion salt
- Use herbs and spices as an alternative to salt to flavour food
- Choose products labelled ‘no added salt’ or ‘salt reduced’
- Limit processed and packaged foods where possible
Eating potassium-rich foods can help negate the effects of sodium in the body. Potassium helps the body remove sodium through the urine and eases tension within your blood vessels - both of which help maintain blood pressure.
Potassium-rich foods include:
- Low fat milk or yoghurt
- Green vegetables such as peas
With Rosemary Health’s doctor guided weight loss program, you can learn how to develop sustainable, healthy habits that can improve your blood pressure.
The doctors at Rosemary Health are experienced at helping people lose weight, especially when lifestyle efforts alone haven’t been enough. Learn more about our doctor-guided weight loss program, which combines proven treatments and 1:1 medical guidance to help you lose weight effectively.