English: blood pressure measurement Deutsch: :...

English: blood pressure measurement Deutsch: :deBlutdruckmessung (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood on the arteries and the blood vessels.  This pressure will go up with each heartbeat as blood is forced out and goes down between heartbeats.  Many people are used to having a cuff put on their arm which inflates and deflates, and the nurse writes down the results.  The readings are typically expressed as one number over another number.

If the numbers are in an acceptable range, then it is ok.  If the numbers are not in this range, then the patient is told that they may have high blood pressure and may have to possibly change their diet and lifestyle or even take medication.

TOP NUMBER–SYSTOLIC

The top number is called the systolic number.  Systolic comes from the Greek word ‘sustole’ from ‘sustellein,’ meaning to contract.  The systolic number is the measurement of the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle contracts.   

BOTTOM NUMBER–DIASTOLIC

The bottom number is called the diastolic number.  Diastolic comes from the Greek ‘diastellein’ meaning to place, bring together or make ready.  This is the lower of the two numbers.  The diastolic number is the measurement of the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.  This is the time when the heart muscle is at rest.

WHAT DO THE NUMBERS MEAN?

The American Heart Association has classified that a systolic number less than 120 and a diastolic number less than 80 is normal.  A systolic number between 120 to 139 and a diastolic number between 80 to 89 is considered to be an indicator of potential problems.  A systolic number between 140 to 159 and a diastolic number between 90 to 99 is considered the first stage of high blood pressure.  If the systolic number is 160 or higher and the diastolic number is 100 or higher, then this is considered very high blood pressure.
Of course, if the systolic number is more than 180 and the diastolic number is higher than 110, it is considered an emergency situation.