What is Blood Pressure?

One of the first things your doctor checks during a visit is blood pressure.  It’s a quick and easy measurement of how your heart and circulatory systems are functioning. Your blood pressure is a factor of many things:  how hard and fast your heart pumps, how elastic and flexible your blood vessels are, and how much fluid is in your body.  High levels of cholesterol contribute to blockage of the arteries, and can cause elevated blood pressure. Consistently elevated blood pressure is called hypertension.


Blood pressure is the amount of force exerted by your blood as it flows thought the circulatory system. In order to have enough pressure for tissue perfusion, or getting the substances in your blood to the cells in your body, a minimum level of blood pressure is necessary.  Too much pressure, however, puts a strain on your heart, blood vessels and other vital organs. Amazingly, the body is fully equipped to not only keep your blood pressure at the optimal level, but also adjust the pressure within seconds in response to your body’s changing needs.

All your body’s systems have an impact on blood pressure. The brain regulates heart rate, kidneys control the amount of fluid in your body, and the liver regulates the blood’s ability to clot. 

Blood pressure can be elevated by anxiety, physical activity or eating a meal high in salt.  This is a normal response to physiological alterations in your body. Healthy people will be able to normalize their blood pressure in response to these situations relatively quickly.

Several medical problems can contribute to abnormally high blood pressure that does not return to normal levels.  Other medications you may be taking can also elevate blood pressure so be sure to mention these to your doctor during your visit, especially if they were prescribed by another specialist.  Even over-the-counter medications have the potential to impact blood pressure.

  • Steroids
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS)
  • Nasal decongestants/cold remedies
  • Diet medication, Rx or OTC
  • Cyclosporine
  • Erythropoietin
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)