Blood pressure (BP) is the pressure of circulating blood on the walls of blood vessels. Most of this pressure is due to work done by the heart by pumping blood through the circulatory system. Used without further specification, "blood pressure" usually refers to the pressure in large arteries of the systemic circulation. Blood pressure is usually expressed in terms of the systolic pressure (maximum during one heartbeat) over diastolic pressure (minimum in between two heartbeats) and is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), above the surrounding atmospheric pressure.
Blood pressure is one of the vital signs, along with respiratory rate, heart rate, oxygen saturation, and body temperature. Normal resting blood pressure, in an adult is approximately 120 millimetres of mercury (16 kPa) systolic, and 80 millimetres of mercury (11 kPa) diastolic, abbreviated "120/80 mmHg". Globally, the average blood pressure, age standardized, has remained about the same since 1975 to the present, at approx. 127/79 mmHg in men and 122/77 mmHg in women, although these average data mask quite large divergent regional trends.
Traditionally, blood pressure was measured non-invasively using auscultation with a mercury-tube sphygmomanometer. Auscultation is still generally considered to be the gold standard of accuracy for non-invasive blood pressure readings in clinic. However, semi-automated methods have become common, largely due to concerns about potential mercury toxicity, although cost, ease of use and applicability to ambulatory blood pressure or home blood pressure measurements have also influenced this trend. Early automated alternatives to mercury-tube sphygmomanometers were often seriously inaccurate, but modern devices validated to international standards achieve an average difference between two standardized reading methods of 5 mm Hg or less and a standard deviation of less than 8 mm Hg. Most of these semi-automated methods measure blood pressure using oscillometry. Blood pressure is influenced by cardiac output, systemic vascular resistance and arterial stiffness and varies depending on situation, emotional state, activity, and relative health/disease states. In the short term, blood pressure is regulated by baroreceptors which act via the brain to influence the nervous and the endocrine systems.
Blood pressure that is too low is called hypotension, pressure that is consistently high is called hypertension and normal levels of blood pressure is called normotension. Both hypertension and hypotension have many causes and may be of sudden onset or of long duration. Long-term hypertension is a risk factor for many diseases, including heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. Long-term hypertension is more common than long-term hypotension, which is usually only diagnosed when it causes symptoms.