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Blood pressure refers to the amount of pressure exerted in the bloodstream as it passes through the arteries. When the left ventricle of the heart contracts or squeezes down, it forces the blood out into the arteries. The major arteries then expand to receive the oncoming blood. The muscular linings of the arteries resist the pressure; the blood is squeezed out into the smaller vessels of the body. The blood pressure is the combined amount of pressure the blood is under as a result of the pumping of the heart, the resistance of the arterial walls and the closing of the heart valves.The maximum pressure in the arteries is related to the contraction of the left ventricle and is called the systolic pressure. The minimum pressure, which exists when the heart is at maximum relaxation, is referred to as the diastolic pressure.Everyone needs blood pressure to move blood through the circulatory system. The pressure goes up and down within a limited range, but when it goes up and stays up, it is called high blood pressure. A systolic pressure of 150 and a diastolic reading of 95 (or 150/95) is generally considered high blood pressure. A normal reading would be about 120/80, although it is recognized that the definition of normal varies from person to person.In some people, high blood pressure is associated with another ailment such as diabetes, a kidney disorder or tumours. But usually, no cause can be detected. Still, the risks are all too clear.Hypertension places the heart and arteries under abnormal strain. Excess pressure constantly pounds the body organs fed by the blood supply. As a result, a blood vessel in the brain can burst, causing a stroke. Or the capacity of the kidney to filter wastes may be impaired. The heart, which must work harder to pump blood against the increased pressure in the arteries, may begin to show signs of strain. If ignored, high blood pressure can cause irreversible body damage.

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