Blood Pressure Number. What Does It Mean

Blood Pressure is recorded as Systolic/Diastolic BP reading .The top number or systolic reading represents the pressure in your arteries when the heart contracts to push out blood through the body. The bottom or diastolic reading represents pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes to fill up with blood.

Blood Pressure Number Reading

If your blood pressure reading is below 120/80 mmHg, you have normal blood pressure reading. Hypertension or High Blood Pressure is diagnosed on having BP reading of 140/90 mmHg or greater. Both systolic and diastolic, or only one may be elevated. The diagnosis is made with Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring or several high readings in the doctor’s office or home readings.

Blood Pressure Machine

If you have Hypertension, it is recommended that you invest in a BP machine to monitor your readings at home. A BP monitor with an arm cuff is preferred. 

This helps your doctor in assessing your BP control.  The goal is to maintain a BP of less than 140/90 mmHg so as to reduce the risk of complications like stroke, heart disease or kidney failure.  If age 60 years and older with no diabetes or chronic kidney disease your BP goal is below 150/90 mmHg.1

If the systolic reading is above120 but less than 139 mmHg and/or diastolic reading is above 80 but less than 90mmHg, you have ‘Prehypertension’. This means that you are at risk for developing Hypertension and hypertension related complications like heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. It is recommended that you seek medical attention. Steps should be taken to reduce this blood pressure number to below 120/80 mmHg.

Some persons have ‘White Coat Hypertension’ where the stress and anxiety of being in the doctor’s office contributes to temporary elevated BP readings.  These persons have normal home readings.  The diagnosis can be confirmed on ambulatory blood pressure matters. Home blood pressure monitoring is recommended.

Health of the Nation study published in 2015 reveals that the mean systolic BP reading is 130.2 mmHg and mean diastolic BP reading is 77.4 mmHg in Barbadian population aged 25 years and over.2 The prevalence of Hypertension was estimated to be 41%2, which means that 41% of Barbadian adults age 25 years and older have Hypertension or Blood Pressures of 140/90 and over.


Adults should have routine blood pressure screen at every health encounter or at their annual medical checkup. If ‘Prehypertension’, blood pressure should be measured at least measured every six months.3


  1. 2014 Evidence-Based Guidelines for Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults. Report from JNC8. JAM. 2014;311(5):507-520
  2. Unwin N et al. The Barbados Health of the Nation Survey: Core Findings. Chronic Disease Research Centre, The University of the West Indies and the Barbados Ministry of Health, January 2015
  3. CARPHA publication. Managing Hypertension in Primary Care in the Caribbean; CHRC, PAHO/WHO, 2007

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