Each time your nurse or physician “takes” your blood pressure, they are recording two measurements: your systolic pressure and your diastolic pressure. If the two measurements were 110 and 70, they would be written as “110/70”. Your physician or nurse will describe your blood pressure as “one-ten over seventy”.
Your systolic pressure (the first and highest number) is the pressure or force the heart places on the walls of your blood vessels as it is working/pumping with each heartbeat.
Diastolic pressure (the second and lowest number) is the lowest pressure the blood places on the walls of your blood vessels when the heart is relaxed between beats.
Both of these measurements are important. A high systolic pressure indicates strain on the blood vessels when the heart is attempting to pump blood into your bloodstream. If your diastolic pressure is high, it means that your blood vessels have little chance to relax between heartbeats.
Occasional high blood pressure is common. Anxiety, exercise, or nervousness can cause you to have a high reading (seeing a nurse or physician for the first time can cause this response). Untreated sustained high blood pressure can increase your risk of premature strokes and heart attacks. If your blood pressure is 140/90* or higher, you will be asked to return for a recheck at your earliest convenience. If your blood pressure remains high, you will be referred to a physician for treatment.