Blood pressure

Synonyms: BP

Medical Specialties: Cardiology, Emergency medicine, Family practice

Clinical Definition

Blood pressure is the force or tension applied to arterial walls of the heart during systematic circulation. Blood pressure measurement includes systolic pressure, which occurs during contractions of the myocardium, and diastolic pressure, which occurs when the heart is between beats. A normal adult blood pressure reading is: Systolic less than 120mmHg and diastolic less than 80mmHg. Values outside of normal ranges can be contributing factors to several disease processes, such as stroke and cardiovascular disease. 

In Our Own Words

Blood pressure is the amount of force your blood pushes against the artery walls as your heart contracts. Blood pressure involves measuring two different pressures during the heartbeat: Systolic pressure, which is force placed on the arteries when the heart contacts. Diastolic blood pressure occurs when the heart is at rest between beats.


The greater the amount of force placed on the arteries, the higher your blood pressure will be. Normal blood pressure for an adult is 120/80. Although blood pressure can vary throughout the day, chronically high blood pressure is a risk factor for both stroke and myocardial infarction. Lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise and body weight influence your blood pressure.

Relevant Conditions
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Hypertension
  • Hypotension
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  • National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “What is High Blood Pressure?” Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • Cleveland Clinic. Disorders, Hypertension 2012. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • Mayo Clinic. High Blood Pressure (prehypertension). Last reviewed Aug. 2, 2012. Accessed Sept. 2013.
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