How is Blood Pressure Tested?


How Is Blood Pressure Tested?

Having your blood pressure tested is quick and easy. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and recorded as two numbers systolic pressure "over" diastolic pressure. For example, the doctor or nurse might say "130 over 80" as a blood pressure reading.

Both numbers in a blood pressure reading are important. As we grow older, systolic blood pressure is especially important.

To test your blood pressure, your doctor will use a familiar device with a long name. It is called a sphygmomanometer (pronounced sfig-mo-ma-nom-e-ter), and may look something like this:

Blood Pressure

Some blood pressure testing devices use electronic instruments or digital readouts. In these cases, the blood pressure reading appears on a small screen or is signaled in beeps, and no stethoscope is used.

Adapted from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD. 4/08

Last Modified Date: July 01, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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