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 millimetres 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."

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
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