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Blood pressure affects blood flow to the organs. High blood pressure is cause for concern as it can damage the arteries over the long-term, and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes and heart failure.

1 in 3
Australian adults has high blood pressure.1

Most people with high blood pressure experience no symptoms, which is why it is important to regularly check blood pressure and know the measurements that are normal for you.

The risk

Generally there is no single cause of high blood pressure, although there are several linked risk factors.

Factors that cannot be changed include:

  • Family history: high blood pressure can run in the family
  • Age: as people get older, blood pressure can rise
  • Gender: men are more likely than women to have high blood pressure.

Some factors that could be controlled through lifestyle changes include:

Taking charge of these risk factors could help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of life-threatening complications. Lowering blood pressure through diet and participating in an exercise program could all help.

Measuring blood pressure

Blood pressure is a measurement taken of systolic pressure over diastolic pressure, given as one number over the other, eg, 120/80.

The top, larger number – systolic pressure – measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the heart muscle contracts).

The bottom, smaller number – diastolic pressure – measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle relaxes between beats).

Both pressures are measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

Blood pressure readings

Blood pressure changes to meet the body’s needs, and what is considered a healthy blood pressure can vary among people. Your doctor can advise you for your individual circumstances.

  • Optimal blood pressure: less than 120/less than 80
  • Normal blood pressure: 120–129/80–84
  • Normal to high blood pressure: 130–139/85–89
  • High blood pressure: anything greater than 140/90

People can also have low blood pressure (hypotension). Blood pressure is generally considered low if it is below 90/60, although this can vary among individuals. It can be a sign of good health in some people – generally those who are very fit and have a slow pulse. Low blood pressure is only a problem if it has a negative impact on the body or affects the way a person feels.

What is HRI doing?

The Vascular Immunology Group is working to understand the causes and progression of preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) and examining the links between high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in women.

The Clinical Research Group is researching novel techniques for detecting high blood pressure in the lungs, also known as pulmonary vascular disease, a very severe condition affecting young adults and (more so) older people.


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; High blood pressure

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