• Question: what does blood pressure mean?

    Asked by cbond on 30 Apr 2020.
    • Photo: Luke Bryden

      Luke Bryden answered on 30 Apr 2020:

      Morning. Blood pressure measures the force your heart uses to push blood around the body. This force applies pressure to the walls of blood vessels, hence it is called blood pressure. We can measure this and there are two values: systolic and diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure is measured when the heart contracts and exerts force to push blood around the body; the diastolic pressure is measured when the heart relaxes between beats. So, if blood pressure is 110/80 mmHg, this means the pressure is 110 mmHg when the heart contracts and 80 mmHg when it relaxes.


      What does this mean for a person? Well, it is often used to indicate how healthy your cardiovascular system is. A high blood pressure (systolic pressure of >140 mmHg and diastolic pressure of >90 mmHg) is most often caused by unhealthy lifestyle habits (such as smoking, and drinking alcohol excessively) and it is bad news as it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, which can damage them, and can lead to heath problems such as heart disease. Luckily though, lifestyle changes can quickly help a person with high blood pressure get it down to a normal level.

    • Photo: Kim Liu

      Kim Liu answered on 30 Apr 2020: last edited 30 Apr 2020 8:41 am

      Blood pressure is the force exerted upon the blood vessels in your body, and usually measures the strength of your heart and the blood flow. It’s measured with two values – the first is the highest pressure during one heartbeat and the second is the lowest pressure when the heart relaxes.
      It is one of the vital signs that a doctor will look to assess the quality of our essential, life-sustaining functions (i.e. circulation). High blood pressure (hypertension) indicates higher chance of bursting blood vessels (aneurysms or stroke) or heart attacks (cardiac arrest). Low blood pressure (hypotension) can indicate serious infection (sepsis), blood loss, poisoning or shock.

    • Photo: Anabel Martinez Lyons

      Anabel Martinez Lyons answered on 30 Apr 2020:

      Hi- thanks for your question! Blood pressure is a measure of the force that your heart uses to pump blood around your body. Blood pressure is caused by the contraction of the heart, which is a large and powerful muscle (think of the ‘lub-dub’ sound of a heartbeat- that is the contraction of the heart muscle).
      Blood pressure is measured by two numbers; the first number is the ‘systolic pressure’, which is the pressure when your heart pushes blood out. The second is the ‘diastolic pressure’, which is the pressure when your heart rests between beats. The first number is always higher than the second and the two can be used by doctors and nurses to see if your heart is working too hard. High blood pressure happens sometimes when we have other health problems or aren’t living very healthily (eating too much, for example). A healthy blood pressure for adults is anything under 120/80.

    • Photo: Patricia Brown

      Patricia Brown answered on 30 Apr 2020:

      Blood pressure is the pressure that the blood puts on the blood vessel walls. The role of the heart is to pump the blood into the blood vessels, which distribute it to every single part of the body so that they can get oxygen. Every time the heart pumps, it sends the blood rushing through the vessels (this is the systolic pressure). The pressure is initially high but it gradually slows down while the heart is filling up again (this is the diastolic pressure), until the next pump. There needs to be a certain pressure to make sure the blood gets all the way into the tiny capillaries (the tiniest blood vessels in your tissues), but if it’s too high, the vessels might get damaged. That’s why it’s important for blood pressure to stay within a reasonable range.

      Imagine the blood vessels as long balloons with water going through them. If you were to put a lot of pressure, the balloon might stretch a bit too much and burst, but if you were to put very little pressure, you might not be able to get the water to come out at the other end.