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Blood pressure is a measurement of the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls as the heart pumps blood through the body. Blood pressure is usually given as two numbers.  For example, normal blood pressure is usually around 120 over 80, or 120/80. The first number is the systolic blood pressure, or the maximum pressure exerted when the heart contracts. The second number is the diastolic blood pressure, or the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest. Because of the potential risk to your health, you are not allowed to donate blood if your blood pressure is lower than 90/50 or higher than 180/100.

There are several categories of blood pressure in adults:

HYPOTENSION: Blood pressure less than 90 / less than 60, or a number significantly lower than usual for a particular person
NORMAL: 90-120 / 60-80
PRE-HYPERTENSION: 120-139 / 80-89
HYPERTENSION, STAGE 1: 140-159 / 90-99
HYPERTENSION, STAGE 2: 160 and above /100 and above

Hypotension is the medical term for low blood pressure. In healthy people, especially athletes, low blood pressure is a sign of good cardiovascular health. Although chronic low blood pressure is almost never serious, low blood pressure can be a sign of an underlying problem, especially in the elderly. In this population low blood pressure may cause inadequate blood flow to the heart, brain and other vital organs. Most health problems related to hypotension occur when blood pressure drops suddenly.

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the body and contributes to hardening of the arteries. It can lead to heart attacks or heart failure, stroke and kidney failure. The exact causes of hypertension are not known, but several factors and conditions may play a role in its development, including: smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity, too much salt in diet, drinking too much alcohol, stress and genetic risk factors. Fear, anger and anxiety may also increase blood pressure, so try to relax before your blood pressure is measured.

Steps to Lower Blood Pressure:

  1. Maintain a healthy body weight and get rid of excess body fat through diet and exercise.
  2. Eat a healthy diet with two or more servings of fresh fruit and vegetables a day.
  3. Reduce dietary salt intake.
  4. Stay active and exercise for at least 30 minutes three to four times a week.
  5. Quit smoking and stop all tobacco use.
  6. Limit alcohol use and the use of caffeinated beverages.
  7. Incorporate relaxation techniques into your daily routine.