The Cardiovascular System

Blood Pressure

The Heart  |   Cardiac Cycle  |   The Blood  |   Types of Arteries  |   Blood Circulation  |   Blood Pressure  |   ECG

The pressure exerted by the blood against the walls of the blood vessels, especially the arteries. It varies with the strength of the heartbeat, the elasticity of the arterial walls, the volume and viscosity of the blood, and a person's health, age, and physical condition. The pressure waves (pulse) can be felt at the wrist and at other points where arteries lie near the surface of the body. Since the heart can pump blood into the large arteries more quickly than it can be absorbed and released by the tiny arterioles and capillaries, considerable inner pressure always exists in the arteries. The contraction of the heart (systole) causes the blood pressure to rise to its highest point, and relaxation of the heart (diastole) brings the pressure down to its lowest point. Normal ranges for blood pressure in adult humans are:

Blood pressure is strongest in the aorta, where the blood leaves the heart. It diminishes progressively in the smaller blood vessels and reaches its lowest point in the veins.

Since blood pressure varies in different arteries, the pressure in the brachial artery of the forearm serves as a standard. A sphygmomanometer measures blood pressure in millimeters of mercury; blood pressure gauges that do not use mercury also produce readings that are expressed in terms of millimeters of mercury. Normal blood pressure readings for healthy young people should be below 120 mmhg for systolic pressure and 80 mmhg for diastolic pressure, commonly written as 120/80 mmhg and read as one-twenty over eighty millimeters of mercury. With age, and the constriction of the small arteries and then the larger ones, blood pressure increases, so that at 50 years, a person may typically have a systolic pressure between 140 -150 mmhg, and a diastolic pressure of about 90 mmhg.

Factors other than heart action and the condition of the arteries also influence blood pressure. Temporary high blood pressure usually occurs during or following physical activity, nervous strain, and periods of rage or fear. Therapy for persistent high blood pressure or hypertension, consists of sufficient rest, a diet low in salt and alcohol, reduction in weight where there is obesity, increased exercise and drug therapy. Low blood pressure (hypotension) has not been studied as extensively as high blood pressure. If not caused by disease or injury, it is generally considered to be a benign or even advantageous condition; however, studies have linked hypotension with feelings of tiredness or faintness and minor psychiatric conditions in some people