other words, in a blood pressure of 120/80, the diastolic blood
pressure is the number represented by "80".
While the systolic (upper number in the fraction) represents the pressure on your arteries as your heart contracts and pushes blood poured into your arteries, the diastolic one is the pressure that is present in your arteries after the contraction has happened and the heart has relaxed.
In other words,
with every beat of your heart, you have one number that represents
the pressure in your arteries during the contraction (systolic) and one
number that represents the pressure on your arteries after the
When you measure
blood pressure, both your systolic
and diastolic measurements are
important. Hypertension is one of the most common diseases in the
United States, and it is also often a "silent" disease, meaning that
there are no symptoms with it. However, it can cause severe damage,
including damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, etc.
In fact, about every major organ and system in the body, including the
Previously, it was thought that having diastolic hypertension (a high diastolic pressure) was a much greater concern than having a high systolic one. However, recent studies now suggest that at least for people 50 and older, high systolic pressures are of greater concern than high diastolic.
Nonetheless, diastolic hypertension
still be of greater concern to people under the age
best results, when the
doctor or nurse takes your blood pressure, try not to be nervous; this
can artificially raise it. Sit comfortably and relax as
much as you can. You can also lie down if you wish.
To take your blood pressure, the nurse or doctor will wrap a cuff around your upper arm, just above your elbow. This cuff will fit snugly; the cuff itself is inflatable, and it will be tightened while the doctor places a stethoscope on the crook of your arm and watches a mercury column with numbers. Then, he or she begins to slowly deflate the cuff while listening through the stethoscope to your pulse.
Both the diastolic and systolic numbers are usually taken during a blood pressure measurement.
The systolic pressure is the number at which the doctor first hears your pulse as he or she is letting the air out of the cuff; the diastolic is the number at which the doctor first hears your pulse "disappear" when he or she is listening. The two numbers give your full blood pressure reading.
healthy diastolic pressure is generally
considered to be 80 or below
for most people. It is important to maintain good cardiovascular health
particularly because of the organs that can
experience damage from prolonged high blood pressure.
You can also measure the blood pressure at home with automatic gauges; these gauges do not require the ability to listen through a stethoscope or watch a mercury column. Instead, they are completely automatic.