How Blood Pressure is Measured

Is high  blood pressure a problem?

Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman at Blood Pressure UK, said: 'Over half of the estimated 16 million people in the UK living with high blood pressure are unaware they have the condition, as it is symptomless.

This is also true for about one-third of American adults (33.0%). This can cause health problems that need to be dealt with as you work with your healthcare provider.   


  When your heart pumps blood through the blood vessels, the blood pushes against the walls of your blood vessels. This creates blood pressure. Your body needs blood pressure to move the blood throughout your body, so every part of your body can get the oxygen it needs. Healthy arteries (the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body) are elastic. They can stretch to allow more blood to push through them. How much they stretch depends on how hard the blood pushes against the artery walls. For your arteries to stay healthy, it’s important that your blood pressure be within a healthy range. For some people, blood pressure can get too high.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to help keep your blood pressure in that range and that is a conversation you need to have with your health provider.

How can you tell what your blood pressure is?

By using a device called a blood pressure monitor, your healthcare provider can measure your blood pressure to see if it’s in a healthy range. You’ve probably had your blood pressure taken during a visit to your healthcare provider’s office. Your blood pressure is recorded as two numbers. The systolic blood pressure (the “upper” number) tells how much pressure blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is pumping blood. The diastolic blood pressure (the “lower” number) tells how much pressure blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats. Blood pressure is measured in units of millimeters of mercury, or mm Hg. For example, a blood pressure reading might be 120/80 mm Hg. A healthy blood pressure is under 120/80 mm Hg. A blood pressure reading of 120-139 systolic or 80-89 diastolic is defined as “prehypertension.” This means that the blood pressure is not high enough to be called high blood pressure (hypertension), but that it is higher than normal. If systolic blood pressure is 140 or greater, or diastolic blood pressure is 90 or greater, it’s high blood pressure