Blood Pressure: The Highs and Lows


Think of your blood pressure as the push and pull that brings your blood throughout your body, carrying oxygen and other important nutrients to your cells and organs. It is vital in order for you to keep on living, and your doctor or nurse will check your blood pressure with a stethoscope and the velcroe pump he or she wraps around your arm, known as an asphygmomanometer.

But what is blood pressure?


Well, when your heart beats, it pumps the blood in your body through your veins and arteries. As the blood is pumped throughout your body, it pushes against the walls of your veins and arteries, and the pressure against the walls is known as blood pressure. When your heart beats, the pressure against the walls increases, and when your heart rests between beats the pressure decreases.

Here’s an example! When you do an activity–say, play a game of frisbee, your heart rate increases with your running and exercise, and the blood pressure in your body will be higher due to your heart beating harder. On the other hand, when you read a book on the couch, your blood pressure is lower because your heart is relaxed. Your blood pressure is constantly changing as your activities change, but is also affected by your diet, if you are taking any medication, and even due to stress from the world around you.

When your blood pressure is taken, the nurser or doctor is measuring the “millimeters of mercury”, written as mmHg. He or she is taking note of the blood pressure in your body when your heart beats and when it is at rest, so your blood pressure would be written as something like “120/80 mmHg”, which means when your heart beats, the pressure is at 120, and when it is as rest it is at 80. Your doctor or nurse meausres this number when using a stethoscope–like me, Steph!–and an asphygmomanometer. I am used to listen to each heartbeat so your doctor or nurse can hear when your heart beats and when it is at rest.

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