The average adult has about five liters of blood flowing through the body via an intricate network of blood vessels called arteries, veins and capillaries. Blood is essential to life for it delivers oxygen from our lungs to our body tissues, and carries harmful waste to the kidneys to be removed. Blood also transports hormones from our glands to various parts of our bodies, as well as vitamins and nutrients from our digestive tracts.
As the pressure increases inside of our arteries, veins and capillaries, our hearts become even more overworked. Over time, our hearts grow larger in an effort to compensate for the extra workload and eventually they become weaker.
When you add obesity, smoking, or diabetes to the mix, the risk of heart attack, stroke or kidney disease for those with high blood pressure increases dramatically. This is why it is important to know what your blood pressure is.
Experts recommend that you maintain a blood pressure lower than 140/90 mm Hg at rest. The higher number represents the maximum pressure exerted when the heart contracts (systole). It reflects the stiffness of the large arteries near the heart, and the volume of blood pumped into them. The lower number represents the pressure exerted when the heart begins to relax between beats (diastole), just before the next contraction. It measures the amount of constriction of the body's smaller arteries or arterioles.
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