High blood pressure is a common condition that affects millions of people in the UK. It can be dangerous because it is associated with other serious health concerns such as cardiovascular disease. Those who have or are known to be at risk of high blood pressure should have their blood pressure monitored regularly, either using a home blood pressure monitor or in a doctor's surgery. This is essential because it is the only way to know if you are experiencing problems with your blood pressure, because the condition displays no visible symptoms.
When you have your blood pressure monitored, two figures will be calculated. These two figures are diastolic blood pressure and systolic blood pressure. The figures are presented as a top figure and a bottom figure; the top number is systolic blood pressure and the bottom number is diastolic blood pressure. In order to find out these two figures, an electronic blood pressure monitor is used, which is painless and non-invasive. An inflatable cuff that is attached to the actual blood pressure monitor is placed around the forearm, wrist or upper arm. This cuff is then inflated and a reading is given by the electronic monitor. The two numbers are given together, with the systolic figure (the top number) read first and the diastolic figure (the bottom number) read second, for example "120 over 80".
The term systolic blood pressure refers to the force that is created by the pressure put on the arteries when the heart contracts and pumps the blood through the arteries. The figure of systolic blood pressure is generally considered normal if it is below 120, while a systolic blood pressure number that is higher than 140 is usually taken to indicate high blood pressure, or hypertension. If a person has a systolic blood pressure figure between these two numbers, they are usually considered to be borderline for high blood pressure. They will likely be recommended to undergo regular blood pressure monitoring.
Diastolic blood pressure is understood to indicate what pressure is present in the arteries between heartbeats, when the heart is resting. It is presented as the bottom number when blood pressure is read. A normal diastolic blood pressure reading is usually 80 or below, while a reading over 90 is considered to indicate high blood pressure. A reading between these two figures is usually cause for concern and will likely lead to a recommendation of regular blood pressure monitoring.
In most cases, a diastolic and systolic blood pressure reading that is lower than 120/80 is considered normal. If it is higher than this then it is advised that you continue to have your blood pressure monitored regularly. You can do this in your own home with a blood pressure monitor, or you may prefer to have it done by a doctor. If your blood pressure reading is higher than 140/90 then this indicates that you have hypertension and should seek treatment.