What Do Blood Pressure Readings Mean?

Last reviewed: 03 Mar 2022

Medically Reviewed By: Dr Jay Shah

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In this guide, we’ll be taking a closer look at blood pressure readings, what they mean, and how to stay on top of them with a handy chart. We will also look at how age can affect your readings and what you can do to stay healthy.

The numbers

Blood pressure readings are made up of two numbers:

  • Systolic pressure (the first number)
  • Diastolic pressure (the second number)

Systolic pressure

Systolic pressure describes how much pressure your blood exerts against your arteries when your heart beats. The name comes from the systole, a part of the cardiac cycle where some chambers in the heart contract after they refill with blood.

Diastolic pressure

Diastolic pressure describes how much pressure your blood exerts between two heart beats. The name comes from the diastole, a part of the cardiac cycle where the heart refills with blood after it’s emptied during systole.

What unit is blood pressure measured in?

Blood pressure is measured in units of millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and can look like this:


You would pronounce this as “120 over 80”, with the 120 being the systolic pressure and the 80 being the diastolic pressure.

Blood pressure chart

Below you’ll find blood pressure charts to help you better understand your blood pressure readings:

Simplified blood pressure chart

Blood pressure level Lower limit Upper limit
Low <90/60mmHg 90/60mmHg
Normal 90/60mmHg 120/80mmHg
High 140/90mmHg >140/90mmHg


Advanced blood pressure chart

Blood pressure level Lower limit Upper limit
Optimal N/A 90/60mmHg
Normal 90/60mmHg 120/85mmHg
Elevated 130/85 mmHg 140/90 mmHg
Stage 1 Hypertension 140/90 mmHg 160/100 mmHg
Stage 2 Hypertension 160/100 mmHg 180/120 mmHg
Stage 3 Hypertension 180/120mmHg >180/120mmHg


If you are worried about your blood pressure measurements, you should consult your doctor who will advise on how best to manage your blood pressure day-to-day.

How can age affect blood pressure?

As we get older, and depending on your lifestyle and diet, our arteries change shape and may become stiffer, leading to a greater risk of hypertension. An elevation in systolic blood pressure (known as isolated systolic hypertension) is the most common form of hypertension in people aged 50 or over (source). This artery stiffness can also lead to other cardiovascular events, including strokes.

Johns Hopkins has also conducted further research into the link between blood pressure, health, and other age-related conditions: In a 2013 study of 3,000 older individuals, researchers found that participants taking blood pressure medication, such as diuretics and ACE inhibitors, had a 50% lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In another study of African-American men, aged between 21–54, Johns Hopkins found that a blend of home visits, medication, and regular medical appointments lowered their blood pressure significantly.

Because of this, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout your life. Want to find out how to do just that? Check out the following links:


Keeping track of your heart’s health doesn’ need to be a chore. There are a variety of tools and resources at hand to make sense of things like blood pressure readings, systolic and diastolic pressure, and how to stay healthy at any age. 

Monitoring your blood pressure is also one of the most important actions you can take. Aktiia’s Easy 24/7 Blood Pressure Monitoring allows you to do that with ease, turning insights into actions with a clinically validated optical blood pressure monitor.

Find out more information on Aktiia’s blood pressure monitoring solution and see how it can help you today.

Aktiia Team Written by The Aktiia Team

Our mission is to help people live free from hypertension.

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