B1 - Fitness and Blood Pressure

This resource gives you the information required for your biology GCSE about fitness and blood pressure, but in manageable chunks.

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Difference between being "healthy" and being "fit"

So, what does "healthy" mean? All you need to know is this simple definition - "being free of any diseases or infections".

Being "fit", however, means something else entirely; fitness is "a measure of your ability to perform in physical activities".

Do not confuse the two, as you will lose easy marks. Just spend 5 minutes hammering this into your brain, ok?

Fitness can be measured in more than one way - make sure you know these, too.

  • strength
  • speed
  • flexibility
  • agility

Stamina also affects fitness, but remember that stamina isn't all that is required. (stamina; your ability to keep going).

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How does blood get around the body?

This is fairly simple, but needs to be learnt none-the-less.

1. the heart contracts, pumping the blood from the heart

2. the blood leaves the heart through the arteries

3. the arteries split into capillaries, which carry the blood to all the cells in the body

4. blood then flows back to the heart through the veins to be pumped around again.

Spend a few minutes re-reading this to make sure it is stuck in your mind.

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Diastolic and Systolic Pressure

When the heart contracts, the blood pressure increases. As the blood flows through the body's system, the pressure gets lower. This is because the heart is relaxing at this point.

So what is systolic pressure? Simply, it is "the pressure when the heart contracts".

And diastolic pressure is "the pressure when the heart relaxes".

You will most likey asked to define these in an exam, so make sure you are aware of their meanings before you progress to the next card.

You may also be asked to write what blood pressure is actually measured in. You will need to know both ways of saying it. These are; mmHg, or mm of mercury.

When someone takes your blood pressure, they will give you two numbers. The top one represents the systolic, and the bottom one represents the diastolic. If you can't remember which is which in an exam, just remember that the systolic is the higher pressure, and is therefore ALWAYS the bigger number. The systolic pressure shouldn't be higher than 135 in a healthy person, and the diastolic 85.

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What factors increase blood pressure?

You will be required to mention AT LEAST two of these factors;

  • smoking
  • being overweight
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • being under stress for long periods of time.

All of these contribute to high blood pressure. Here's a short explanation of why;

  • smoking - the carbon monoxide (CO) in the smoke reduces the oxygen carrying ability of red blood cells, and therefore your heart has to beat faster to get the small amounts of oxygen in the blood to all the cells in the body.
  • being overweight - results in a build up of cholesterol in the artery walls (a plaque) that narrows the arteries and means the heart has to pump faster to get the blood through the artery.
  • drinking too much alcohol - this slows the production of red blood cells, which means there is less oxygen getting to each part of the body, and so the heart has to pump faster to get more oxygen to these parts of the body.
  • stress - you know when you're stressed about something, and you can feel your heart beat increasing? Well, that's all you need to know.
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Health problems caused by high or low blood pressu

High blood pressure:

  • can lead to strokes
  • can lead to brain damage
  • can lead to kidney damage

Low blood pressure:

  • causes poor circulation
  • dizziness
  • fainting
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Reducing high blood pressure

High blood pressure can be reduced by...

  • eating a balanced diet
  • doing regular exercise
  • taking medication
  • reducing alcohol intake
  • stopping smoking
  • reducing stress
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