What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is a measure of the force that your heart uses to pump blood around your body.

How is blood pressure measured?

To find out your blood pressure, two measurements are recorded during a single heartbeat:

  • the level of pressure when your heart pumps blood through your arteries and around your body (systolic pressure): this is when the pressure is highest, and
  • the level of pressure when your heart is resting before it pumps again (diastolic pressure): this is when the pressure is lowest

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). The readings are given as two numbers or levels. The systolic reading is first, followed by the diastolic reading. For example, if your systolic reading is 120mmHg and your diastolic reading is 80mmHg, your blood pressure is 120 over 80. This is commonly written as 120/80.

Is my blood pressure high, normal or low?

Blood pressure can be high, normal or low.

If you consistently have a reading of 140/90 or higher, you may have high blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure increases your risk of developing some health conditions, including cardiovascular disease.

Generally, the lower your blood pressure, the healthier you are. As a general guide, the ideal blood pressure for a young healthy adult is 120/80 or lower. However, it’s possible to have abnormally low blood pressure.

People with a reading of around 90/60 or lower are generally considered to have low blood pressure. For some people with low blood pressure, there may be an underlying cause that could need treatment.

For more information, see:

Read more information on keeping your blood pressure healthy and answers to more questions about blood pressure.

Further information:

 

Hypertension

High blood pressure has no symptoms, but if it's not treated it can damage the kidneys, heart and brain.

Media last reviewed: 22/11/2013

Next review due: 22/11/2015

Page last reviewed: 21/07/2014

Next review due: 20/07/2016