Understanding blood pressure readings

Our Healthy Heart Practitioner, Ellie, explains everything you need to know about blood pressure and your readings.

Most people will probably tell you they know it’s not good when it is high; some may remember that the doctor used to take it every time that they visited the surgery. Often times this is as far as many people’s knowledge goes and to be honest I once, until recent years, did not understand what it meant as well.

So, what is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the measure of the pressure of blood against the arterial walls, it is measured using 2 numbers in millimetres of mercury. The first accurate recordings were taken using mercury and for example a reading of 140 millimetres of Mercury (mmHg) would mean that the mercury had been pushed up by 14cm.

When a reading is taken it is represented by 2 numbers i.e., 120/80

blood pressure monitor showing 106/80 reading

Systolic refers to the pressure when the heart is pumping. It is the top number and is the largest number of the two. In a perfect world this should be around 120mmHg.

Diastolic is the pressure in the arteries between beats when the heart is filing. This is the bottom number and is the smallest number.

What’s considered normal and what’s high?

The ideal reading is around 120/80mmHg. Blood pressure varies throughout the day, it can be affected by our lifestyles, stress levels, exercise levels and more. It is therefore more prudent to have a range to represent healthy or where action needs to be taken.

It is also important to remember that high blood pressure cannot be diagnosed with a single reading; it must be diagnosed over time, with multiple readings, where they are shown to be consistently high.

One You Surrey recently launched a pilot project with Surrey County Council and Surrey Heartlands CCG to increase the number of blood pressure recordings for patients in the North Guildford area. To find out more about our Healthy Heart Check programme, visit: https://oneyousurrey.org.uk/healthy-heart-checks/