Fitness, Health and Blood Pressure

What is physical fitness?

Physical fitness is the ability to do physical activity.

You can measure your fitness level by measuring your

  • stamina (endurance)
  • strength
  • flexibility
  • agility (being able to move quickly nimbly)
  • speed
  • cardiovascular efficiency (an efficient heart and normal blood pressure)

Each of the above methods measures a different aspect of physical fitness. Some methods are more difficult to carry out as they may need specialist equipment.

What is good health?

Good health is being free from disease. A disease is a condition caused by any part of the body not functioning properly.

Heart Disease

The main cause of early death in the UK is heart disease. Your risk of developing heart disease is increased if you:

  • Have High Blood Pressure
  • Smoke
  • eat too much Saturated Fat
  • eat too much Salt

Blood Pressure

Each time the heart beats its muscles contract. This pushes the blood out into the arteries at the correct pressure so it reaches all parts of the body. The two blood pressure measurements, such as 120/80 mmHg, show:

  • the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts (systolic pressure) (120 mmHg)
  • the pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes (diastolic pressure) (80 mmHg)

During exercise your systolic pressure goes up, but then comes down again when you have finished exercising.

High Blood Pressure

The following can increase your resting blood pressure:

  • Smoking
  • eating too much salt
  • being overweight
  • stress
  • drinking too much alcohol regularly
  • eating a lot of saturated fat

Regular exercise and eating a balanced diet helps lower your resting blood pressure to normal.

If you have high blood pressure (above 140/90 mmHg) while you are resting you maybe more likely to

  • have a heart attack
  • have a stroke (or a blood vessel in the brain may burst)
  • suffer from kidney damage

How smoking increases your blood pressure?

Tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide and nicotine.

  • Carbon monoxide combines with haemoglobin in the red blood cells and prevents them carrying as much oxygen. The heart beats faster to compensate. This puts a strain on the heart.
  • Nicotine increases the heart rate

How saturated fat may increase blood pressure?

  • Your liver makes cholesterol from saturated fat (fat in milk, butter, eggs, cheese, red meat, cream).
  • Cholesterol is carried in the blood and may be deposited in artery walls.
  • These deposits narrow the arteries and restrict blood flow. The blood pressure increases to force blood through the narrower gap.

Low Blood Pressure

Having resting blood pressure that is too low can also be harmful. It can lead to

  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • poor circulation and organ failure


Cholesterol deposits may also lead to a blood clot (thrombosis). A thrombosis in an artery supplying the brain causes a stroke.

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