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Your Blood Pressure

What is blood pressure?

With each beat of the heart, blood is pumped out of the heart into the blood vessels, which carry your blood throughout your body. Your blood pressure is a measurement of the pressure or force inside your arteries with each heartbeat.

How is blood pressure measured?

Your doctor or health care provider can check your blood pressure during a physical exam. (You can also check your own blood pressure at home.) Blood pressure is measured with a device known as a sphygmomanometer, which consists of a stethoscope, arm cuff, dial, pump, and valve. (A digital blood pressure monitor provides an electronic blood pressure reading.)

Your blood pressure is measured in the following manner:

  • The cuff is wrapped over your arm and inflated with the pump until it stops the flow of blood.
  • The valve lets air out of the cuff, which starts the blood flow again.
  • The stethoscope is placed under the cuff to listen for the sound of blood rushing back through the artery. It is measured as two numbers:
    • Systolic blood pressure – the first number; the amount of pressure against the artery walls each time the heart contracts or squeezes blood out of your heart.
    • Diastolic blood pressure – the second number; the amount of pressure inside your arteries when your heart is at rest, in between heartbeats.
Blood Pressure Over/Under

Your blood pressure recording is not always the same. When you are exercising or excited, your blood pressure goes up. If you are at rest, your blood pressure will be lower. This is a normal response to changes in activity or emotion. Age, medications, and changes in position can also affect blood pressure.


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Reviewed: 12/13

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This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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