Blood Pressure Health Awareness: FAQs (NIH.gov) · Too High (Hypertension) · Too Low (Hypotension) · Million Hearts 2022 Initiative (HHS.gov)
As the blood moves around the body, it puts pressure on the walls of the vessels. Blood pressure readings are made up of two values: Systolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart beats – while the heart muscle is contracting (squeezing) and pumping oxygen-rich blood into the blood vessels. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure on the blood vessels when the heart muscle relaxes.
Blood pressure is measured in units of millimeters of mercury (mmHg). The readings are always with the systolic value first, followed by the lower (diastolic) value. So someone who has a reading of 132/88 mmHg (often spoken “132 over 88”) has a systolic blood pressure of 132 mmHg, and a diastolic blood pressure of 88 mmHg.
In adults, blood pressure is now considered to be normal below a systolic value of 120 mmHg and under a diastolic value of 80 mmHg.
For most adults, there’s no identifiable cause of high blood pressure (hypertension). This type of high blood pressure, called primary (essential) hypertension, tends to develop gradually over many years. Some people have high blood pressure caused by an underlying condition, such as diabetes.
A blood pressure reading lower than 90mm systolic or 60mmHg diastolic is generally considered low blood pressure (hypotension). The causes of low blood pressure can range from dehydration to serious medical disorders. Some medications can cause low blood pressure, such as diuretics or for erectile dysfunction.
Million Hearts® 2022 is a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes within 5 years. It focuses on implementing a small set of evidence-based priorities and targets that can improve cardiovascular health for all.