Understanding blood pressure

Just been for a routine blood pressure check and was told it was "perfectly fine" at 170/60

I then check on the internet as those figures mean nothing to me and find conflicting and confusing information about what's ok and what isn't.

So in layman's terms, can someone explain to me what my figures mean and whether or not I should be concerned.

Many thanks...

23 Replies

  • The critical number is the second one. The two numbers represent the pressure in you arteries when the heart is pumping and when it is not. So the residual pressure (the second number) is the one they are worried about. Generally speaking they like it under 80 and if nearer or under seventy then they love it.

    Years ago they used to say that 100+your age over 80 was fine but now they like it to be under 140/80 in most cases. Not really sure why your top number is so high but they obviously are not too worried or they would do something about it.

    Hope that helps.

  • the top figure (systolic) is a little too high- 140 and below is best, but it may be you were a little anxious? White coat syndrome often means people's BP rises in the surgery- the bottom figure ( diastolic) is best if 80 or below

  • Blood pressure results worry me greatly.

    Everyone in my family has lowish blood pressure. My results whilst sat quietly at home are about 110/65. Whenever it is tested in surgery or hospital it's 160/85. The one exception was the morning after my ablation when they recorded 110/65.

    I am genuinely anxious that they will conclude that I have high blood pressure and treat me with something that will kill me.

    I have to conclude that this testing business is not an exact science!!!

  • My husband had the same concern as he does have white coat syndrone so his GP agreed to taking his own readings with his own machine over a month. They showed very different results to those taken in the surgery. Most GPs are aware of the phenomena.

    You have the right to refuse treatment, however, you don't have the right to demand treatment

  • I do have a wrist monitor and my GP asked to see it and to check its performance. It's surprisingly accurate compared to her upper arm torture gadget! From memory it cost £10.

  • Then just keep a journal entry every time you take your BP with date and time so you can produce it if you are ever advised to take BP meds, the you have the evidence to produce.

  • If you are in AF then wrist monitors are of very little use, as are many cuff monitors. My EP said that I had to use a cuff monitor approved by the British Hypertension Society. Last year there was only one cuff monitor that is suitable / approved by NICE for those actually in AF. After buying my WatchBP AF BP cuff monitor I checked it against the wrist monitor (it was not a cheap one) for a couple of weeks out of interest. The wrist monitor was up to 40% out - sometimes low and sometimes high. Typically 20 to 25% out.

  • When I am having AF the wrist monitor heart logo goes ballistic. Normally it flashes very steadily. I do know to be wary of readings when fibrillating but the rate figure is useful.

  • Many people have white coat syndrome and my GP lets me do a seven day chart and uses those results as she knows that anything done at surgery is useless.

  • Both my GP and EP consultant uses mine as well. However last time the EP said that it was best and more meaningful if the readings were taken at approximately the same time each day and that on the days it was taken then at least morning and evening.

  • My instructions are to do morning. lunch time and evening. I must also take it twice each time and discard the first reading. I suspect that this is because one has just rushed around finding a) the machine and b)the chart.

  • Well I have had four different methods and frequencies from different consultants, GP, locum GP and nurses!!!!

    As for the readings themselves as I use the Microlife WatchBP monitor it does it automatically. Minimum of 3 measurements with a 15 second gap between and produces output. All accept that (and it is approved by NICE).

  • Be your own boss and you'll have nothing to fear. Doctors can't make you take medicine. I've been monitoring my BP at home for years so I know its patterns and I can tell a doc if any particular reading is normal or not. S/he might not believe me, but I figure the doc is my consultant, not the other way around.

    I've used an arm cuff to check BP but it's a nuisance. The wrist cuff (made by Omron) is just as accurate as the arm cuff and much easier to use. It also stores 90 readings so I don't have to record each one as I take it.

  • Its a snapshot of your BP at that moment in time. Serial readings have to be taken to get an accurate picture and although the first number is a little bit high compared to textbook figures the second figure is the important one and thats looking good. Theres no indication there of high blood pressure. And yes im a trained medic...lol

  • Thanks for all your responses guys and gals... I'm feeling much more reassured.

  • Those figures seem very inconsistent. The systolic at 170 indicates very high blood pressure while the diastolic at 60 indicates low blood pressure. See for an explanation:


    Both are equally important. I would get another reading. In fact I'd get a blood pressure monitor to use at home in a more relaxed setting.


  • Ok.... Thought I should give an update on this one as I have started this thread with some misinformation.

    After reading through the many helpful replies, the one thing that was concerning me a little was the large variation between the two readings. Having carried out a little research online I came across something called 'isolated systolic hypertension' which appeared to fit my symptoms to a tee.

    As I had been told by my GP that my readings were 'perfectly fine' I decided to give him a call (yes my GP is more than happy for me to give him a call) to question whether 'perfectly fine' was the correct phrase to use with regard to my readings. he informed me that a reading of 135/76 was well within the normal range and why was I worrying?

    Now taking you back to my original post, you will note I said it was 170/60

    How could I possibly have got it so wrong, but wrong I was...

    It just goes to show that not only can 'white coat syndrome' increase your blood pressure but it can also affect your hearing and ability to recall accurately what you have been told.

    I apologise to everyone for unintentionally misleading them, but hope that some of the replies have nevertheless been useful.

  • Hi I have slow irreg heartbeat GP says BP machines not true indicator and relies on the stethoscope and listens to heart that way...however yesterday my reading take by him was 168/70 he said too high and increased my Bisoprolol from 1.25 to 2.50 so will see what happens over next few weeks.

  • I was told that 120 /60 is what to aim for

  • My surgery nurses are brilliant when taking my BP - they chat haphazardly about anything under the sun for several minutes before the test. By the time they come to it I'm feeling relaxed and free of the normal white coat syndrome.

  • If there are only one or two BP monitors that have been approved by NICE to use for AF then why do GPs use such a variety of different makes and models? (permanent AF)

  • That's a very good question and one I have asked and pondered over. I suspect that some GPs and nurses just don't know particularly if they trained some years ago. Some hospital BP machines won't pick up AF. Some of the professional ones may also be suitable (I don't know).

    Even the NICE approved BP monitor does not 100% correspond with the AliveCor readings but that may be due to differences between where one considers it is a beat and the other doesn't. When using for my logging records I use AliveCor ones. The wrist one can easily be 30% out. I did some comparisons / cross checks. The wrist one was not a cheap one and is a well known make (it's not it's fault).

  • Interesting how the concept of normal has changed over the years. When I was expecting my son 30 years ago, my BP was a fairly steady 150/90 (no AF but had a congenital heart condition). When the bottom figure reached 100, I was whisked into hospital. Now a much lower figure is preferred.

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