Systolic and diastolic blood pressure

Systolic blood pressure refers to the pressure of blood in the artery when the heart contracts. It is the top (and higher) number in a blood pressure reading.

Diastolic blood pressure refers to the pressure of blood in the artery when the heart relaxes between beats. It is the bottom (and lower) number in a blood pressure reading.

For example, if a person's systolic pressure is 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and the diastolic pressure is 80 mm Hg, blood pressure is recorded as 120/80 and read as "120 over 80."

Last Updated: April 10, 2009

Author: Robin Parks, MS

Medical Review: Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine & Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology & Ruth Schneider, MPH, RD - Diet and Nutrition

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