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Dr Marcus de Brun. Rush Family Practice

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Follow-up care

Understanding blood pressure measurements

Understanding blood pressure measurements

Blood pressure reflects the pressure exerted by the blood in our arteries. It is defined using two readings: a maximum pressure and a minimum pressure, corresponding to the contraction and relaxation of the heart.

Maximum pressure during the heart's contraction

The heart is a muscle that acts as a pump. When it contracts, the blood it contains is forcefully pumped into the arteries. Blood pressure is at its maximum level at this point. As the contraction is known as systole, this maximum pressure is referred to as systolic pressure.

Minimum pressure when the heart relaxes

When the heart relaxes, the pressure reduces to a minimum. This phase of the heart beat is known as diastole, and at this point, we refer to diastolic pressure.

The pressure changes in response to the body's needs

During physical exertion, for example, the muscles need more energy and oxygen. As these elements are transported in the blood, the heart works harder (greater ejection force and contraction rate) in order to increase their supply. Blood pressure therefore increases during exercise, tand thenreduces when it stops.

140/90: the line not to be crossed*

At rest, blood pressure should be stable and not exceed 140 (systolic pressure) and 90 (diastolic pressure).

If one or both of these values is exceeded at rest, this is referred to as arterial hypertension (high blood pressure).

This constant excessive pressure gradually damages the heart and arteries. Above all, it is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Blood pressure increases during exertion and reduces when at rest. If it is too high (over 140/90), the person has high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

* If you have diabetes or kidney failure, these figures need to be adjusted downwards.

Publication date:   11/29/11

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