How to understand your Blood Pressure Readings

In this article we talk about:

Blood Pressure Readings Explained.jpg

What is blood pressure, and what do the numbers mean?

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is given as 2 figures:

  • systolic pressure – the pressure when your heart pushes blood out

  • diastolic pressure – the pressure when your heart rests between beats


For example, if your blood pressure is "140 over 90" or 140/90mmHg, it means you have a systolic pressure of 140mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 90mmHg.


As a general guide:

  • normal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg

  • high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher

  • low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower


A blood pressure reading between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you're at risk of developing high blood pressure if you don't take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.

Either your systolic pressure or diastolic pressure can be too high, or too low, on their own, the table below shows how doctors interpret your readings. 

We have also collected together some videos from The British Heart Foundation, and other good sources of information. 

Understanding Blood Pressure Readings fo

How to use this blood pressure chart to work out what your blood pressure readings mean

  • STEP 1 :  find your top number (systolic) on the left side (y-axis) of the blood pressure chart

  • STEP 2:  Now and read across and find your bottom number (diastolic) on the bottom (x-axis) of the blood pressure chart.

  • STEP 3:  The colour where the two lines meet is what kind of  blood pressure you have:

  • Blue - Low

  • Green - Ideal

  • Yellow - Pre-high blood pressure

  • Red - High Blood Pressure

If you are concerned that your blood pressure is very very high or low, try taking the readings again, and if you are still concerned, contact 111 for advice. 

Videos to help you understand your blood pressure readings

We have collected together these videos which explain blood pressure readings, and discuss blood pressure in more detail, and talk about some effects of high blood pressure e.g. strokes and heart attacks.


We start with the easiest ones, if you keep swiping you will find they get longer and more complicated. 

How high blood pressure can be bad for your health

If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.

Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions, such as:

  • heart disease

  • heart attacks

  • strokes

  • heart failure

  • peripheral arterial disease

  • aortic aneurysms

  • kidney disease

  • vascular dementia

If you have high blood pressure, reducing it even a small amount can help lower your risk of these health conditions.

Videos about the effects on your body of high blood pressure

We have collected here some videos about high blood pressure can damage your health, and the kinds of bad things that might happen if you don't take some action to lower your blood pressure. 

The videos vary from quick and simple, to longer and more in-depth ones.

Next steps - tracking your Blood Pressure, and having a plan

Hopefully you have found some information so far useful.  In our next article we show you how digital health tools can help you monitor and manage your blood pressure, to get your health back on track, and we share reviews and suggest which blood pressure monitors are good buys. 

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