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Blood pressure is the force with which blood pushes on the walls of the arteries as it moves around the body.
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is recorded as two figures, one on top of the other, for example 120/80mmHg. The top figure is called the systolic blood pressure and this is the pressure in the arteries when the heart is contracting. The bottom figure is called diastolic blood pressure and this is the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest, between beats.
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is classified as a systolic pressure of 140mmHg or above and a diastolic pressure of 90mmHg or above (140/90mmHg). The risk of developing high blood pressure increases with age and in the UK about half of people aged 75 or over have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor in the development of many serious conditions such as stroke, heart disease and kidney disease.
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