How to Interpret Your Blood Pressure Readings

May 7th 2016

The Basics of Measuring Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury, otherwise known as mm Hg. This is a holdover from the days when blood pressure was measured using a mercury-filled device called a sphygmometer. This manual device has been replaced by an electronic meter, but the units have been retained to ensure consistency of care for patients.

Your reading is given in the form of two numbers. The highest one, the systolic pressure, reflects your blood pressure when your heart is pumping. The other number, the diastolic pressure, refers to the pressure when the heart is relaxed between beats. The two numbers are usually closely related in terms of changes between readings, leading to a fairly constant gap between them. In other words, if one number goes up, the other one usually does as well. If this is not the case, it indicates the need for further tests to check for underlying issues.

Normal Blood Pressure Range

For most people, normal blood pressure occurs when readings are in the range between 85/55 mm Hg and 120/80 mm Hg. In most case, the lower the reading the better. However, there can be consequences to very low blood pressure, or hypotension, over an extended period or if there is a sudden drop in pressure. High reading are more often a cause for concern, though one-off spikes in pressure can be the result of simple things such as nervousness or stress.


Readings that consistently rise above 120/80 mm Hg indicate a tendency to hypertension, or high blood pressure. This can be dangerous because of the extra strain it puts on the cardiovascular system, so it's best to take any consistent set of readings over this level as a warning sign to overhaul your diet and lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly are key factors in managing your blood pressure. If your readings are very high

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