Understanding blood pressure

Female getting blood pressure checked by medical person.

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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