Blood Pressure: what’s the difference between systolic, the top number, and diastolic, the bottom number.

What is blood pressure?

“Blood pressure is a measurement of the force applied to the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood through the body. The pressure is determined by the force and amount of blood pumped, and the size and flexibility of the arteries.

Blood pressure is continually changing depending on activity, temperature, diet, emotional state, posture, physical state, and medication use.”1

What’s the difference between systolic (the top number) and diastolic (the bottom number)?

“Blood pressure readings are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and usually given as 2 numbers. For example, 110 over 70 (written as 110/70).

  • The top number is the systolic blood pressure reading. It represents the maximum pressure exerted when the heart contracts.
  • The bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure reading. It represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest.”1

OK, so what’s happening when I’m getting it read at the doctors office?

When having your blood pressure read (using a sphygmomanometer or blood pressure cuff and a stethoscope), as the pressure around the arm reduces and the level on the dial or mercury tube falls, the point at which the pulsing (the thump, thump you feel) is first heard (the thump, thump the recorder hears) is recorded.1 This is the systolic pressure and represents how much force is being applied to the artery walls, how much blood is being pumped and how big & flexible your artery walls are when your under stress.

“As the air continues to be let out of the cuff, the sounds will disappear. The point at which the sound disappears is recorded. This is the diastolic pressure (the lowest amount of pressure in the arteries as the heart rests).”1

What’s a normal reading?

“In adults, the systolic pressure should be less than 120 mmHg and the diastolic pressure should be less than 80 mmHg.”1

Where can I learn more?

To learn more about risks of high & low blood pressure as well as what abnormal blood pressure readings are, visit this site: .

This post was quoted and summarized with permission from

1. Van Voorhees, Benjamin W., The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.; ADAM Health Illustrated Encyclopedia,, 07/21/2006

Barefoot or shoes?

Check out this article on

Mike Alves

Welcome back!

After a long hiatus, I’m back. My grandmother (aka Grammy) passed away in March and it threw off my rhythm. I didn’t feel like writing and it seemed like I never had much to say.

God bless her. She was my chief babysitter growing up, she’s responsible for my excellent, though dusty table manners, for teaching me the golden rule and for the many little words of wisdom that ring in my ears from now & then.

Despite saying goodbye to her and mourning with family, I had a really good 2 months and I’m ready to start sharing tips, stories, answering questions and whatever else you might enjoy and get value out of reading.

I’ve cut the long hair as it was time for it to go. Back to my short style that seems to draw people to me. Go figure.

Finally decided between staying lean for triathlons or strength training for maximum strength. I’m going with the latter at least until June as I still love training for triathlons & competing, but I feel like I kick so much more A*$ when I lift heavy weights.

My clients are crushing it. They’re getting strong, losing weight, dropping body fat, healing from chronic injuries and sweating a lot. I think we’re having fun and there’s been a lot of GTM otherwise known as Gym Trash Mouth.

Here’s a great e-mail I received today from “the Ranger” in regards to some new training we’re trying. Enjoy.


I just feel I need to say this: This program is HARD! When I first read it I thought it would be okay and maybe a little challenging but looking at it as body weight exercises I wasn’t sure it would be as challenging as the barbell stuff we were doing. SO TOTALLY WRONG was I!

The things you are having us do are really hard. And four sets today was like “OH MY GOD!”. Then to do boxing after that. Whew, I was tired. It’s a good kind of tired, don’t get me wrong but damn, it’s hard.

Okay, I just felt I needed to say that. Now back to my chores for the day…I so love having a day off!

Thanks for writing challenging programs every time and thanks for bearing with us as we suffer our ups and downs along the way.





Mike Alves