Blood Pressure FAQs

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1. What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force exerted by blood against the walls of the arteries. Blood pressure is expressed as a ratio (example: 120/80 mmHg). The first number is the systolic pressure or the pressure when the heart pushes blood out into the arteries. The second number is the diastolic pressure or the pressure when the heart relaxes. A blood pressure reading of 120/80 mmHg is considered normal. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

2. How does the blood pressure monitor on the HealthZone work?

The cuff manually inflates and closes off blood flow through the brachial artery. The cuff is slowly deflated and detects heart sounds and measures the pressure exerted by the brachial arteries onto the bag of the blood pressure cuff. The device picks up heart sounds and brachial pressure. This type of blood pressure monitor has been shown to be accurate and also in line with the guidelines for best practice for automatic blood pressure devices.

For more technical details, please refer to the section on HealthZone Technology.

Keep in mind that the HealthZone is a tracking tool and not a diagnostic device. Please contact your doctor if you are concerned about your blood pressure.

3. What is high blood pressure / hypertension?

In the table below you can see what is regarded as a high blood pressure. A constantly raised BP >140/90 mmHg is known as hypertension and puts you at risk for heart and kidney disease or a stroke.

The following are internationally recognised medical guidelines given for BP norms:

Blood Pressure Guidelines

Classification Systolic (mmHg) Diastolic (mmHg)
Normal< 120< 80
Pre-hypertension120-12980-89
Hypertension
Stage 1140-15990-99
Stage 2≥ 160≥ 100
Guidelines from ACSM 2006, 7th Edition

4. How do I know if I have hypertension?

You may have hypertension if your BP is consistently raised for a prolonged amount of time (at least 3 - 4 weeks). It is quite normal for your BP readings to be high during stressful times and during strenuous exercise. Once-off high readings are not necessarily of concern. The problem comes in when your BP remains high when you're resting. This is because your heart is constantly working hard to circulate your blood and is put under a great deal of strain. If you suspect that you have high blood pressure, then first discuss it with your doctor. Unfortunately, some people may feel absolutely fine with hypertension since there are not necessarily any definite signs and symptoms. For this reason it's a good idea to check your BP regularly.

5. My blood pressure reading is very high. What can I do?

Relax for 10 minutes and measure it again. If it's still high, then check it regularly over the next few days. If it remains consistently high, please consult with your doctor to check your BP and discuss the best plan of action.

6. What is low blood pressure?

Hypotension is the medical term for low blood pressure (under 90/60 mmHg). Usually, borderline-low or slightly low BP readings produce no symptoms and require no treatment. It is healthier to have low BP than to have high BP. Low BP can be a sign of good health in some people with no symptoms (e.g. athletes), showing that their hearts, lungs and blood vessels are well conditioned and in good working order. However, it can also be an indication that the body is unable to properly regulate blood pressure. In these cases, low BP may require treatment and your doctor can assist you with the appropriate treatment plan.

7. My blood pressure result is low. What can I do?

Low BP or hypotension is not usually a sign of a disease or disorder. If your BP is constantly low, it's a good idea to assess your lifestyle e.g. Do you smoke? What's your nutrition like? Do you exercise? Remember, if in doubt, speak to your doctor.

If you suffer from low BP, it's a good idea to be careful in the gym. Make sure you cool down properly on the treadmill or bike after a good workout. This way you can assist the blood in returning to your whole body after cardiovascular exercise. After a hard workout, the blood is mainly in the large muscle groups (eg. in your leg muscles). If you stop suddenly, your BP drops and it becomes difficult to circulate your blood properly throughout your body, making you dizzy. The same applies when lifting heavy weights. A cool-down routine at the end of your session will help prevent a sudden drop in BP at the end of a hard session.

8. When is the best time to take my blood pressure at the HealthZone?

It's best to measure your BP on the Virgin Life Care HealthZone when you are relaxed before you exercise. Tracking your BP is an important part of managing it correctly. But always remember that during exercise, or just after an exercise session, your BP will be higher than what it normally is.

9. What is the Health-E Buzz call?

Should the blood pressure reading that you take on the Virgin Life Care HealthZone fall above a certain range (within hypertensive range), one of our sport scientists may give you a call to check if this reading was taken at rest or during exercise. They will also try to give you some advice on how to manage your BP and to help you understand what BP is all about.

10. What affects my blood pressure reading?

A consistently and reliable measuring technique is important to monitor and track BP. This means that to monitor BP over an extended period of time, it's important not to use and compare different techniques, but rather stick to using the same method. Always remember that BP can vary from heart beat to heart beat. BP goes up and down all the time, depending on the situation and even the time of day. For example, if you measure your BP on one day before exercise and then on another day after exercise, the two results will be completely different. BP is generally also lower a while after exercise compared to immediately after exercise). Caffeine (coffee or coca cola) will also affect your readings dramatically.

Other things that affect BP include stress, fatigue, your body temperature and even talking whilst you take your measurement. Variations in BP are not a problem. If you do experience different readings try to identify the reasons for this.

For the best and most accurate results:

  • take your BP before you exercise
  • don't have any caffeine before your BP reading
  • relax, keep quiet and don't move during the reading
  • try take your reading at the same time of day
11. Why do my blood pressure readings vary so much during the day?

An individual's blood pressure varies greatly from day to day and season to season. Normally, blood pressure rises during work or play and falls to its lowest levels during sleep. The best way to get consistent readings is to monitor your blood pressure at the same time of day so that you can minimize the effect that external factors have on the reading. Also please be sure to consult your doctor immediately if you have any doubt about your readings.

12. What is the best time of day to do blood pressure measurements?

Taking the measurements when you are at rest will help give more consistent BP readings. If you've had a peaceful night sleep, then measurements are best taken as soon as you wake up in the morning. At this time of the day, your body will be at its lowest functioning levels, both physically and mentally, and therefore the factors that affect BP will be less. This might not be possible when visiting the Virgin Life Care HealthZone, but try your best to take your readings at the same time of the day each time.

13. Why is my reading on the Virgin Life Care HealthZone different to the reading my doctor gives me?

Most research shows that manual measurements (by the doctor or nurse) are higher than measurements from automatic units(like the HealthZone), and it's thought that the "white coat effect" is the biggest contributor to this. Many people get nervous when visiting the doctor or nurse to have their BP taken. This anxiety or apprehension tends to cause a rise in BP and may not necessarily reflect your usual BP. For this reason the Virgin Life Care HealthZone measurements tend to be lower than those taken by a doctor. In addition, the equipment used in hospitals and at surgeries tends to seldom or never be calibrated (to ensure the readings are correct). Virgin Life Care's HealthZone BP device is checked for accuracy daily and calibrated up to two times a month.

14. How does exercise affect my blood pressure reading?

A great way to lower your BP is through regular exercise. Studies show that with a sedentary, couch-potato lifestyle your resting BP tends to increase, while regular exercise can reduce it.

Just like any other muscle in your body, the heart muscle also has to be strengthened so that it can do its job well. Through exercise, your heart muscle works as it pumps blood to the rest of your body. As your heart becomes stronger, it no longer has to work as hard to perform its job. This means your heart can pump more blood out with less pressure being applied. Similarly, encouraging blood to flow through your arteries through exercise clears the arteries of unwanted debris and keeps the artery passages clear. Regular exercise also helps to keep your body fat low, which is also beneficial to control your BP.

You don't have to spend hours in the gym to reap the healthy benefits of exercise. Walking the dog or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can increase the blood flow from your heart and through blood vessels. It's best to do at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every day to keep your BP healthy.

Always remember that while exercise has these long-term benefits of reducing your resting BP, an exercise session is expected to increase BP as your heart rate increases. This has to happen so that your exercising limbs have enough oxygen to perform the task. Then, as you stop exercising, your BP drops to normal. Don't forget to finish your workout with a cool-down session. This will help to bring your BP and heart rate down gradually.