We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Difference Between Systolic and Diastolic Blood Pressure?

By Lindsey Rivas
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Systolic and diastolic blood pressure indicates the force of blood on the walls of blood vessels as it travels through the body. Both types of blood pressure are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), but when they are written together as a fraction, it is done without listing the mmHg unit of measurement, such as 120/80. Systolic blood pressure is the top number of the fraction, and diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements occur at opposite times as the heart beats.

The maximum pressure or force that is exerted on the blood vessels is recorded as the systolic blood pressure. It happens as the heart is beating and the contraction of the left ventricle of the heart pushes blood into the aorta. The systolic pressure allows the blood to carry oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

By contrast, the diastolic blood pressure is the minimum force on the blood vessels in between heart beats when the heart is relaxed. The diastolic pressure is recorded just before the ventricle of the heart thrusts blood into the aorta. This measurement is the lowest when the ventricle is refilling with blood.

What is considered to be a normal reading for systolic and diastolic blood pressure varies slightly in different countries. For example, in the United States, normal readings for an adult are 90-120 mmHg for systolic and 60-80 mmHg for diastolic blood pressure. In the United Kingdom, up to 140 mmHg is normal for systolic, and up to 90 mmHg is normal for diastolic measurements.

Systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings for a person will naturally fluctuate throughout the day due to the body’s circadian rhythm. Blood pressure will also respond to changes in the body due to exercise, diseases, and drugs, among other things. It is best for a person to check the blood pressure readings several times during a day to get an average number rather than relying on just one measurement.

In general, the systolic reading is regarded as more important than the diastolic number for diagnosing various types of cardiovascular diseases for people over 50 years old. The systolic blood pressure will increase steadily with age for most people due to factors such as hardening of the arteries and the buildup of plaque in blood vessels over the long term. Consistently high blood pressure, or hypertension, can lead to organ damage or heart attacks.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By pollick — On Feb 05, 2014

My diastolic blood pressure readings are usually normal, but sometimes my systolic readings will go through the roof. I've tried cutting back on heavy meals and salt and all that, but I think the real problem is stress. The doctor recommended relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga. I have also found some herbal remedies for stress that really do work.

By Ruggercat68 — On Feb 04, 2014

I think doctors in the US have raised the acceptable systolic pressure to 140 in older patients. A number of people over the age of 50 were getting diagnosed with hypertension because of a high systolic blood pressure, but they weren't actually at an increased risk for heart-related conditions. They didn't really need to be on blood pressure medications after all.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.