Blood pressure refers to the force with which the heart pumps blood around the circulatory system. Several factors can influence blood pressure, including:
When a person measures their blood pressure, the reading will appear as two numbers. The top number denotes systolic blood pressure, which is the pressure when the heart contracts. The bottom number shows diastolic blood pressure, which is a measure of the pressure when the heart relaxes.
A blood pressure monitor uses a unit of measurement called millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) to measure the pressure inside the blood vessels. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg.
Readings between 120/80 mm Hg and 139/89 mm Hg indicate that a person is at risk of developing hypertension, while readings of more than 140/90 mm Hg signify hypertension.
Blood pressure rises and falls throughout the day and night. During sleep, blood pressure falls by 10–30%. It then increases around the time of wakening. In some people, this increase may be significant, resulting in morning hypertension.
People who have an abnormal blood pressure pattern may be at risk of complications, such as heart attack and stroke. As a 2010 review notes, the onset of stroke and other serious cardiac events peaks in the first 4–6 hours after waking.
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