May 25, 2011

054 Blood Pressure and Mean Arterial Pressure

What does blood pressure really mean? What does it actually measure? Watch, listen, and learn as Leslie once again explains clearly and makes it so simple for everyone of us to understand easily about the principles behind this new episode.

Have fun!

Transcript of Today’s Episode

Hello and welcome to another episode of Interactive-Biology TV where we’re making Biology fun! My name is Leslie Samuel, and in this episode, Episode 54, I’m going to be talking about ‘Blood Pressure and Mean Arterial Pressure.’ These are the two things I’m going to cover today. Blood pressure… You know, when you go to the doctor’s office, one of the first thing they do is they take your blood pressure. And, you know what? After today, you’re going to know exactly what they’re doing and what it means, if you don’t already know. So, let’s get right into the topic for today.

Here, we have the heart. We’ve been speaking about the heart because we’re talking about the cardiovascular system or the circulatory system and the heart has a very important job. It’s pumping the blood throughout the body. The blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and to the other organs that need this in order for you to live; in order for you to do all the things that you are doing right now.

Here is the heart. If we take the heart and we put it inside the human body, you can see here, we have the human heart and it is serving the purpose of pumping the blood through these arteries, to the rest of the body. Of course, the blood is coming back via these veins to the heart. That process goes over and over. It’s also sending the blood to the lungs so that it can get the oxygen that it needs and then send that to the body and so on. We’ve kind of spoken about that in previous episodes.

Today, we want to talk about blood pressure. First, I’m going to define blood pressure and I’m going to do it simply by writing here. Here, we have the blood and over here, we have blood vessels. As the heart is beating, and it’s sending that blood out to the body, it’s going via these blood vessels, and because it’s being pumped, that is going to exert a pressure on the blood vessels. We’re going to call this pressure a ‘hydrostatic pressure.’ The reason we call it a hydrostatic pressure is because blood is a fluid, and when fluids exert pressure on something, that is called, ‘hydrostatic pressure.’ Okay, so, the blood is being pumped. It’s going through these blood vessels. It’s hitting against the walls of the blood vessels, the inner lining of the blood vessels. That is exerting a pressure on those blood vessels. This is what we mean when we say ‘blood pressure.’

When the doctor is taking your blood pressure, or the nurse is taking your blood pressure, they are checking to see how much pressure is exerted on the blood vessels by the blood. That is a very important measure when it comes to the health of your body.

When the blood leaves the heart, as we’ve shown before, the blood then goes into the aorta which is this vessel that’s leaving from the heart, and then, that goes down here. This is also the… this is called the descending aorta and it goes via these other blood vessels to the rest of the body. It would make sense to understand that the closer you are to the heart, the more you’re going to feel that pressure. If you are right by the heart, you’re going to feel more pressure than if you are all the way down here in the toes, right? Because here is where the heart is beating, and the farther away you go from that, the lower the pressure is going to be.

Let’s look at how this works. What I’m going to do is I’m going to draw a little graph here. (I just realized that I can use a ruler on my tablet which makes sense but, I just never thought about it). Here we have the y-axis and then, here, we are going to draw the x-axis. What I’m going to do is kind of chart the blood pressure as the blood is going from the heart to the, first it’s going to go via the aorta (let me write ‘aorta’), and that’s right here. As it leaves the aorta, it’s going to go to some little smaller vessels and those are called arteries. From there, it’s going to go even smaller to the arterioles. From there, it’s going to go to the capillaries (I’m just going to write here ‘cap’). That is where it actually crosses over from being in the arteries section, arteries and arterioles, to where it’s going into the veins. But, before it goes to the veins, it’s going to go via the venules and then, the veins. When it’s in the venules and the veins, it’s because it’s going back to the heart eventually via the vena cava.

We’re going away from the heart via the aorta and then, we go to the arteries. We’re going away — a very easy way of remembering this is the ‘a’ in ‘arteries,’ ‘arterioles,’ and ‘aorta’ is going ‘away’ from the heart. When it reaches the tissues and the organs, it’s going to have an exchange in the capillaries where it then goes into the venules, to the veins, and then, back via the vena cava to the heart.

Let’s look at pressure on the y-axis. I’m going to give these some values of 20 (let me just write them in here first. Okay, it’s not fully evenly spaced), 20, 40, 60, 80, 100, 120, and 140. On the y-axis we’re dealing (I’m just going to write it over here), with pressure in millimeters of Mercury (mm Hg).

When the heart contracts, we have ventricular contraction and that’s when we’re going to get the greatest amount of pressure because the ventricles are larger than the atria. When they contract sending the blood to the rest of the body, that’s going to give you the systolic pressure, which is going to be the greatest pressure. We’re going to see here, (let me draw this in… Let’s go with red), the ventricles are contracting so the pressure is going to increase significantly and then, as the atria contract, you’re going to get that little bump there. That process continues as the heart beats, continues as the heart beats. We’re in the arteries.

As we go away from the arteries and into the arterioles, what you’re going to see, we’re getting away from the heart a little bit, the pressure is going to start kind of going down, going down. As you go away, you’re going to see smaller fluctuations. You’re not getting as great of an effect. As we reach into the capillaries, it’s kind of dying down even more and the pressure is going to continue going down and down until, on the way back to the heart, there’s hardly any pressure remaining. I mean, in comparison to up here, where we had pressures of up to 120 mm Hg, or sometimes even more in this situation, in comparison, the farther away we get from the heart and as the blood is being pushed back to the heart, we don’t get these fluctuations in pressure and there’s significantly less pressure as the blood is going back to the heart.

When the doctor takes your pressure and the doctor says, “You are in excellent health. Your blood pressure is great,” what are the numbers that you usually hear? The numbers that you usually hear are 120 over 80 (120/80). What that refers to, of course at the top, we have the systolic pressure and here we have the diastolic pressure – systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Systolic is during systole contraction so, that’s the higher point. Diastolic is during relaxation where we have a lower point. If you have that 120/80, you are a happy camper. All is well with the world, at least where your blood pressure is concerned. That is what we want to have.

That is blood pressure. When you’re measuring blood pressure, you’re measuring the difference between systole and diastolecontraction and relaxation.

Now, let’s talk a little bit about ‘mean arterial pressure.’ (I’m just going to write M.A.P. for short). Mean arterial pressure, when you hear the word ‘mean,’ you always think average. The mean arterial pressure is basically the average pressure in the arteries. We’re not looking at the fluctuations. We are looking at the average. If we were to take the average here, I’m just going to plot a second line, it would look something like this. So, straight line here and as it goes down, it’s going to look a little like this until where we have a straight line here, it follows that straight line. That gives us the average pressure in the arteries.

There’s a formula that we use to calculate mean arterial pressure. Mean arterial pressure, M.A.P., is going to be equal to CO times PR.

M.A.P. = CO x PR

Now, two of these you know already: M.A.P., mean arterial pressure; and CO, you should know that that is cardiac output. PR is one that we haven’t covered. PR is ‘peripheral resistance.’ As I said,

M.A.P. = CO x PR

We’re going to go more into peripheral resistance in the next episode so, I’m not going to deal too much with this. The main thing that you want to know is the two factors that are going to influence mean arterial pressure is cardiac output and peripheral resistance. Peripheral resistance is basically, we’re going to define that as, opposition to blood flow. The blood is flowing but, of course there’s going to be some resistance, there’s going to be friction between the blood and the walls of the blood vessels and so forth.

There’s another way of calculating mean arterial pressure. Mean arterial pressure is also equal to diastolic blood pressure, so, that’s during diastole, relaxation, plus 1/3 times systolic blood pressure minus diastolic blood pressure (my handwriting is getting kind of sloppy there but, you get the point).

M.A.P. = diastolic BP + 1/3 (systolic BP – diastolic BP)

Once again, if you’re looking at that graph where we had something kind of looking like this, in the beginning, and if this is 80 and this is 120, the mean arterial pressure is going to be equal to 80 plus 1/3 of 120 minus 80, is 40, and that’s going to be equal to 80 plus let’s see, 1/3 of 40, let’s go with 13.3, I’m just going to leave that at 13, so, mean arterial pressure would be equal to 93 mm Hg.

M.A.P. = 80 + 1/3 (40) = 80 + 13 = 93

That’s mean arterial pressure. Two ways to calculate it: Cardiac output times peripheral resistance. We’ve dealt with cardiac output, that’s the amount of blood pumped by the heart every minute and we’re multiplying that by peripheral resistance which is the opposition to blood flow. In Episode 55, we’re going to go a little more into peripheral resistance or, we can take the diastolic blood pressure plus one-third of the difference between the systolic and diastolic blood pressures which in this case would be 80 plus a third of 40 which would be approximately 13, which gives us 93 mm Hg:

M.A.P. = 80 + 1/3 (40) = 80 + 13 = 93 mm Hg

That’s pretty much it for this episode. Of course, if you want to check out some more Biology videos and other resources like quizzes and the community that we have at Interactive-Biology, you can check out the website at

That’s all for now, and I’ll see you on the next one.

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