Understanding blood pressure

Male doctor showing information on electronic device to male patient

Blood pressure is simply the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries as the heart pumps blood or is at rest.

A blood pressure reading includes two measurements:

  • Systolic pressure taken of a beating heart
  • Diastolic pressure taken of a heart at rest, between beats

When reporting blood pressure readings, healthcare providers place the systolic pressure number on top and the diastolic pressure below. For example, “120 over 80” means your systolic pressure (your heart pumping) is 120, and your diastolic pressure (your heart at rest between pumps) is 80.1

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This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed professional.

You should consult with an applicable licensed professional to determine what is right for you.


  1. “Understanding Blood Pressure Readings,” American Heart Association, last accessed Apr. 22, 2022, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/understanding-blood-pressure-readings.