What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is a measurement of the force applied to the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood through the body. The pressure is determined by the force and amount of blood pumped and the size and flexibility of the arteries.
Blood pressure is continually changing depending on activity, temperature, diet, emotional state, posture, physical state and medication use.
What is blood pressure testing?
Blood pressure is usually measured in a seated position, with an arm resting in a bent position so it is at the same level as your heart. Your upper arm should be bare, with your sleeve comfortably rolled up.
Blood pressure readings are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and are given as two numbers. For example, 110 over 70 (written as 110/70).
- The top number is the systolic blood pressure reading. It represents the maximum pressure exerted when the heart contracts.
- The bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure reading. It represents the minimum pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest.
What do results from a blood pressure test indicate?
A blood pressure reading less than 120 (systolic) over less than 80 (diastolic) is considered normal. Readings above 120/80 may indicate prehypertension.
The Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure recommends testing adults for high blood pressure every 2 years if their blood pressure is normally less than 120/80 mmHg.
Adults with high blood pressure or prehypertension should have their blood pressure checked every year or more often.
Who is blood pressure testing recommended for?
Most people cannot tell if their blood pressure is high because there are usually no symptoms. High blood pressure increases the risk of:
- Heart failure
- Heart attack
- Kidney failure
If you have high blood pressure, blood pressure measurements can help determine if your medicine and diet changes are working.
Low blood pressure may be a sign of a variety of illnesses, including heart failure, infection, gland disorders, and dehydration.
How do I prepare for a blood pressure test?
Blood pressure testing should be done when you are calm, have not exercised recently, used a tobacco product or consumed caffeine in the last 30 minutes.