A short guide to blood pressure (BP) and cholesterol in middle life

Overview of blood pressure and it's role in your body

As your heart beats, it pumps blood with contractions, around your body to provide various organs with whatever they have a need of as well as for removing waste. The flow of the blood requires force, as the blood moves against the sides of blood vessels. The force applied is your blood pressure and the pumping is caused by the heart muscle relaxing and contracting. Low blood pressure is usually an indicator of good health, because high blood pressure puts extra strength on your arteries, requiring the heart to work harder.

Blood pressure in middle life
Middle life stress often reflects on BP

Getting to the meaning of terms

As heart muscle relaxes it is filled with blood (diastole), as the heart contracts it forces the blood to flow out of heart into the blood vessels (systole). From these terms the types of pressure are called and henceforth measured. Diastolic and systolic pressure.

How is blood pressure measured

Blood pressure is measured by various methods in order to understand the pressure created in the blood vessels as the heart contracts and relaxes. For example this is the old school way of measuring the blood pressure but it illustrates the use of devices.

An inflated cuff or and armband is wrapped around your upper arm and is secured.
One tube leads out of the cuff to a rubber bulb.

Another tube leads from the cuff to a container filled with mercury (as a relatively dense liquid metal) at the bottom of a measuring device. The mercury is sealed – the air only travels in the rubber tube and in the cuff. Both types of blood pressure are measured in terms of pressure applied in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

Measuring blood pressure
How is blood pressure measured

The air system allows for more air to be blown into the cuff and the tube. As the air fills the cuff it increases pressure on the arm and eventually tightens the arm. Increased pressure in the cuff reflects on the mercury pressure monitor so that you can see what pressure has been applied and so that you can measure it.

A doctor than applies a stethoscope on your arm and listens to the pulse when the air is finally slowly released. Since so much pressure has been applied, it blocks the blood flow (in a way) for a short time allowing for the pulse to be closely monitored in a controlled environment.

Systolic blood pressure is measured when the doctor eventually hears the pulse. The sound of the pulse, with lowered blood pressure will slowly fade as the pressure in the tube is lowered.
Diastolic blood pressure is measured when the doctor is eventually unable to hear the pulse.

Electronic blood pressure measuring devices do all of this automatically. Devices need to be checked twice a year because of the delicate nature of the instruments involved. Mercury is sealed and poses no threat to the users, still exercise some caution.

Practical effects of having a high blood pressure (hypertension)

High blood pressure is an result of an excess of force applied onto the walls of the blood vessels. This will result in heart and kidneys working harder to pump and filter blood respectively. Over working will cause stress to the organ and can lead to heart failures and kidney deceases. Moreover, blood vessels in the brain could also weaken over time and burst, causing a stroke.

If you have a high blood pressure you are more exposed to risk of suffering from other conditions especially if high blood pressure is correlated with poor diet and lack of exercise. It will take longer to heal injuries, fighting against deceases will be more difficult. A high blood pressure could be a stepping stone towards other conditions and deceases.

Diet has a massive impact on blood pressure
Life style in middle life and BP

Following up on blood pressure

Please check with your doctor before measuring blood pressure yourself. Considering the stress required going to doctors and the formal atmosphere of a clinic/office, home measurings are very likely to be lower than that in the doctors office. Please notify your doctor if you have been under stress lately or if you have eaten before measuring your BP, otherwise there should be no reason to not look into measuring your own blood pressure.

Factors that will have an effect on blood pressure level

Many substances will affect blood pressure starting with alcohol and coffee, so it is best to measure blood pressure in the morning before breakfast but after mild exercise, conducted at least 15 minutes earlier. Your diet, lifestyle, stress and pretty much everything you do will have an effect, so when regularly measuring blood pressure could be good to see how changes in lifestyle or perhaps diet affect your blood pressure which is of course an excellent indicator of health.

Cholesterol levels will impact BP

Cholesterol and blood pressure

Cholesterol is a very important structural component of many living organisms such as human. It servers a number of functions and is absolutely essential in moderation for the organism to function. However excess cholesterol will settle onto the walls of blood vessels and therefore narrowing them. This will have an effect on the blood flow and therefore blood pressure, since the heart will have to work header to pump blood, whilst kidneys will have to work harder to filter blood. High levels of cholesterol will negatively affect your health. For this reason cholesterol level is often measured along with blood pressure and it often correlated with blood pressure, it is recommended that you look into your diet and alter it if your cholesterol level is high. Exercise (to get the blood flow going around the body, along with fresh oxygen and muscle building) wouldn't hurt either. In moderation.