Blood Pressure Home > Blood Pressure Test

There is an easy and convenient way to test your blood pressure. This test measures pressure in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), and the readings are recorded as two numbers: systolic pressure "over" diastolic pressure. When performing the test, your healthcare provider will usually use a sphygmomanometer or blood pressure machine.

Blood Pressure Test: An Overview

Having a blood pressure test is quick and painless. The test involves using either a sphygmomanometer or blood pressure machine to measure the blood pressure. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and recorded as two numbers: systolic pressure "over" diastolic pressure.
For example, the doctor or nurse might say "130 over 80" as a blood pressure reading. This is written as 130/80.
Both numbers in a blood pressure test are important. As we grow older, systolic blood pressure is especially important.

The Sphygmomanometer

To test your blood pressure, your doctor may use a familiar device with a long name. It is called a sphygmomanometer (pronounced sfig'-mo-ma-nom-e-ter). This device has a:
  • Pump
  • Dial
  • Cuff
  • Valve.
To test your blood pressure, a fabric cuff is wrapped around your arm and then inflated. A stethoscope is used to hear the sound of blood rushing back through the artery. The blood pressure is read from a gauge attached to the cuff.
The healthcare provider reads two numbers from the gauge as air is released from the cuff. The first number is when a thumping sound is first heard (systolic pressure). The second number is when the thumping sound is no longer heard (diastolic pressure).
The two numbers that measure your blood pressure are written as a fraction; one number on top and one on the bottom. For example, what many people consider normal blood pressure would be read as 120/80. The number on top is your systolic pressure. It measures the pressure inside your blood vessels at the moment your heart beats.
The number on the bottom is your diastolic pressure. It measures the pressure in your blood vessels between heartbeats, when your heart is resting.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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