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Origins of Pressure in the Circulation

These are the factors that generate pressure in the circulation i.e. blood pressure. They are:

  • Gravity

  • Compliance of Blood Vessels

  • Viscosity of the Blood

  • Inertia of Blood and Vessels


Blood in the blood vessels makes a continuous column of fluid


Gravitation pull on this column generates pressure on blood in the lower parts of the body

At the level of heart
  • The reference level to measure blood pressure is the level of heart.

  • Artierial pressure ≈ 90 mmHg

  • Venous pressure ≈ 5 mmHg

  • In lying position → the entire body is almost at the level of heart → gravity does not produce much change in pressure.

  • In standing position → height difference leads to different pressure at different levels in body as explained next.

Below the Level of Heart
  • As we go lower, the pressure increases.

For an average 180 cm tall person


the foot lies 130 cm below the heart


This tall column of blood creates extra 95 mmHg pressure at the foot


Arterial pressure at foot ≈ 185 mmHg

Venous pressure at foot ≈ 100 mmHg

Above the Level of Heart
  • As we go higher, the pressure decreases.

For an average 180 cm tall person


the top of the head about 50 cm above the heart


The pressure here is decreased by about 37 mmHg


Arterial pressure ≈ 53 mmHg

Venous pressure = -32 mmHg

Despite the variation in absolute pressure, the driving pressure for blood flow (i.e. difference in atrial and venous pressure) remains uniform across all levels e.g.

  • At the level of the heart: 90 - 5 = 85 mmHg

  • At the foot: 185 - 100 = 85 mmHg

  • At the top of the head: 52 - (-32) = 85 mmHg

Compliance of the Vessels

  • Compliance is basically the distensibility of the blood vessels.

Veins (are like balloons)


Have high compliance


With increase in volume


more distension,

less rise in pressure

Arteries (are like tubes of tyres)


Have low compliance


with increase in volume


less distension,

more rise in pressure

Viscosity of the Blood

  • Viscosity is basically the resistance of fluid to movement.

When there is a flow, the blood resists moving due to its viscosity


This resistance generates pressure


The higher the viscosity


The higher the pressure.

Inertia of Blood

  • Pressure is generated in blood from conversion from other forms of energy in blood.

  • e.g. conversion from kinetic energy into pressure energy. The kinetic energy is imported to blood by heart during pumping.


Next >>

Electrophysiology of Heart > ▶️ Pacemaker Tissues of the Heart


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