Blood Pressure Home > Understanding Blood Pressure

In order to understand a blood pressure reading, it's important to first know how blood pressure is measured. A fabric cuff called a sphygmomanometer is wrapped around your arm and then slightly inflated. The healthcare provider reads the numbers from the gauge attached to the cuff as air is released from it. The two numbers are written like a fraction: one number on top (systolic pressure) and one on the bottom (diastolic pressure) -- for example: 120/80.
 
Several different readings are taken over a period of time, and the average is considered your "normal" blood pressure. While healthcare providers consider a reading of 120/80 to be normal, various factors can affect your reading, such as whether you are standing or lying down and whether you use tobacco products.
 
(Click Blood Pressure to gain a more thorough understanding of this topic, including the complications high blood pressure can cause, the role of the blood vessels in the body, and more.)
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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