Your body needs to maintain your blood pressure to allow your heart to feed your brain with oxygen and to carry nutrients around the body and remove waste products.
If your blood pressure falls beyond a certain level it can pose a danger to your safety as it can prevent the heart from working properly. Equally if your blood pressure becomes too high it can present a risk to the heart and to your blood vessels.
Blood pressure reading
Blood pressure readings are usually presented like this: 130/78 mm Hg. You will hear this being described as "130 over 78".
The first number is your systolic pressure i.e. the pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts.
The second number is the diastolic pressure. That is, the pressure in your arteries during the brief moment of rest between heartbeats.
High blood pressure (hypertension)
If your blood pressure reading is regularly at or above 140/90 mm Hg then you are deemed to have high blood pressure. This is also known as hypertension.
An unusually high systolic or diastolic reading on their own can also indicate high blood pressure, although each person is different and your doctor or nurse will take many factors into account before coming to a conclusion.
What does this mean?
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a risk factor that can increase your chance of developing heart disease, a stroke and other serious conditions. As a rule, the higher the blood pressure, the greater the risk.