Blood is transported around the body through a network of blood vessels including arteries, veins and capillaries. Blood pressure is a measurement of the force exerted by blood circulating in the arteries. It is influenced by the force at which the heart pumps blood, the diameter of the blood vessels and the volume of circulating blood.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is diagnosed when blood pressure readings become elevated and exceed a set threshold. It occurs when the vessels through which the blood flow become too narrow or the volume of circulating blood becomes too high.
A number of different factors are suggested to be involved in the development of high blood pressure including genetics, age, sex, exercise level, weight and diet amongst others.
Having high blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, as it causes damage to blood vessels and increases the workload of the heart which can increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
Medications are available to reduce blood pressure; however most people with slight or moderate hypertension are advised to tackle the condition by increasing exercise, reducing alcohol intake, cessation of smoking, weight loss (if overweight) and a healthy balanced diet.