What Your Blood Pressure Numbers Mean
Blood pressure is the force that blood applies to the walls of arteries as it’s pumped throughout the body.
“Your arteries are built to withstand some pressure, but there’s a limit to what they can handle,” says Dr. Nasir.
This is why blood pressure is measured and segmented based on how it affects our health. The four blood pressure categories are:
- Normal blood pressure: Lower than 120/80 mmHg
- Elevated blood pressure: Between 120-129/80 mmHg
- High blood pressure, stage 1: Between 130-139/80-90 mmHg
- High blood pressure, stage 2: 140/90 mmHg or higher
Only normal blood pressure is considered healthy. Having elevated or high blood pressure;damages your heart and arteries by:
- Forcing your heart to pump harder. Over time, this causes heart muscle to thicken, making it harder for the heart to fill with and pump blood.
- Narrowing and hardening your arteries. This can limit the normal flow of blood.
How Older Adults Can Maintain A Healthy Blood Pressure
Maintaining a healthy blood pressure doesnt have to be complicated. Simple lifestyle changes can help:
- Exercise. National guidelines recommend adults of all ages engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. If mobility or health conditions are a problem, older adults should try to be as physically active as possible.
- Lose weight. If your loved one is overweight, every 2 pounds lost can help reduce blood pressure by 1 mm Hg.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet low in salt. The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy foods. It was designed specifically to help lower blood pressure. Try to limit sodium to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day.
- Avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure. If your loved one chooses to drink alcoholic drinks, limit it to no more than one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.
- Dont smoke. Tobacco damages your artery walls. If your loved one smokes, ask their doctor how to help them quit.
- Manage stress. Try simple relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation.
In some cases, diet and lifestyle changes are not enough to lower blood pressure. Your loved one may be having a difficult time achieving significant changes in their lifestyle, or their hypertension may be too severe to treat with diet and exercise alone.
Taking Your Pulse Versus Checking Your Blood Pressure
While both are indications of health, blood pressure and heart rate are two separate measurements. Learn more about the difference between blood pressure and heart rate.
Systolic is less than 120 and my diastolic is less than 80
Great job! Your blood pressure is normal. To keep your readings in this range, stick with heart-healthy habits like following a balanced diet;and getting regular exercise.
Systolic is 120 129 and my diastolic is less than 80
The good news is that you dont have high blood pressure. However, your numbers fall within the Elevated category, making you more likely to develop high blood pressure unless you take action to control it. Ready to make some small changes that have big impacts? Healthy lifestyle;choices are a great place to start.
Systolic is 130 139 or my diastolic is 80 89
You are in the first stage of hypertension, but there are actions you can take to get your blood pressure under control. Your doctor will speak to you about small changes that can make a big difference and other BP Raisers. In addition, monitoring blood pressure outside of the doctors office is important for BP control.
Systolic is 140 or higher or my diastolic is 90 or higher
Systolic is higher than 180 and/or my diastolic is higher than 120
Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.
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What The Researchers Found
Treatment targets should always be determined after discussion between the person and their doctor about the potential benefits and harms of lowering blood pressure.
Adults 60 years of age or older with systolic blood pressure of 150 mm Hg or more should be treated with a goal of reducing systolic blood pressure to less than 150 mm Hg.
Adults 60 years of age or older who have had a stroke or transient ischemic attack should be treated with a goal of reducing their systolic blood pressure to less than 140 mm Hg.
Adults 60 years of age or older who are at high risk for cardiovascular events should be treated with a goal of reducing their systolic blood pressure to less than 140 mm Hg, but this decision should be made on an individual basis.
High Systolic Blood Pressure
The heart muscle pushes out blood with higher pressure when a person is exercising, under stress, or at similar times when the heart rate is increased. The systolic pressure goes up with it.
In these cases, the increased pressure is normal. However, when the pressure is high while a person is resting, that’s considered high blood pressure.
That’s why it is so important to take your blood pressure during periods of quiet rest to;diagnose hypertension, or high blood pressure.
High systolic blood pressure is usually caused by narrowing of the arteries, which makes the heart have to work harder to push blood through.
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When Should You Get Help For An Abnormal Blood Pressure Reading
One high or low blood pressure reading by itself may not mean you need to call for help. If you take your blood pressure and it is out of the normal range, wait a few minutes and take it again. If it’s still high or low, use the following guidance.
911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You passed out .
or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your blood pressure is much higher than normal .
- You think high blood pressure is causing symptoms such as:
- Severe headache.
- Your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher on two or more occasions.
- Your blood pressure is usually normal and well controlled, but it goes above the normal range on more than one occasion.
- Your blood pressure is lower than usual and you are dizzy or light-headed.
- You think you may be having side effects from your blood pressure medicine.
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Blood pressure is essential for healthy blood circulation. Blood must move from our heart to all parts of the body, and the pressure, or resistance, is measured. Blood pressure that is too high means that there is too much resistance and is typically what health professionals refer to as high blood pressure, or hypertension. There is not a normal or average “range” for blood pressure, meaning you don’t need to stay between two numbers. A normal blood pressure for any age, male or female, is a reading less than 120/80. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 3 Americans, or 29 percent have blood pressure that is too high.
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High Blood Pressure Facts
High blood pressure is serious because it can lead to major health problems. Make a point of learning what blood pressure should be. And, remember:
If your doctor asks you to take your blood pressure at home, keep in mind:
- There are many home blood pressure monitors for sale. Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist which monitor you need and how to use it. Have your monitor checked at the doctor’s office to make sure it works correctly.
- Avoid smoking, exercise, and caffeine 30 minutes before checking your blood pressure.
- Make sure you are sitting with your feet uncrossed and on the floor, and that your back is resting against something.
- Relax quietly for five minutes before checking your blood pressure.
- Keep a list of your blood pressure numbers, what time you measured your blood pressure, and when you took your blood pressure medication . Share this information with your doctor, physician’s assistant, or nurse.
Average Blood Pressure By Age
As you get older, your blood vessels tend to become stiffer and plaque can build up in them, which can raise your blood pressure. If your blood pressure becomes too high, you’re at a greater risk for heart disease, strokes, and more.
In 2015, the average blood pressure worldwide was 127/79 mm Hg in men, and 122/77 mm Hg in women, according to a study analysis published in Lancet.
When researchers for the National Center for Health Statistics looked at average blood pressure in U.S. adults between 2001 and 2008, the average reading was 122/71 mm Hg. The breakout was 124/72 mm Hg for men, and 121/70 mm Hg in women. It rose by age and was significantly higher in Black people.
The researchers found the following breakdown by age, sex, and race or ethnicity:
|Blood Pressure by Age|
As the population ages and life expectancy increases, high blood pressure is becoming more common.
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What Does Blood Pressure Refer To
Blood pressure refers to the force exerted by circulating blood on the walls of blood vessels and constitutes one of the bodies principal vital signs. The pressure of the circulating blood as blood moves through your arteries, arterioles, capillaries, and veins. The term blood pressure generally refers to your arterial pressure, i.e., the pressure in the larger arteries, arteries being the blood vessels which take blood away from the heart.
Blood pressure is always given as two numbers;
- Systolic Pressure
- Diastolic Pressure
When the measurements are written, both are written as one above, or before, the other with the systolic being the first number, for example 120/75 .
Blood pressure measurement is NOT the same as your heart rate or maximum heart rate measurement. Check what your heart rate for your age should be. You can calculate your predicted maximum heart rate by using the calculation: 220 – = Age Predicted Maximum Heart Rate – or see our Target Heart Rate Calculator and Chart.
Signs And Symptoms Of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure may not have any symptoms and so hypertension has been labeled “the silent killer.” Longstanding high blood pressure can lead to multiple complications including heart attack, kidney disease, or stroke.
Some people experience symptoms with their high blood pressure. These symptoms include:
- The Feeling of pulsations in the neck or head
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Understanding Your Blood Pressure Reading
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury and is;given as two figures:
- systolic pressure;;the pressure;when your heart pushes blood out
- diastolic pressure; the pressure when your heart rests between beats
For example, if;your blood pressure is “140 over 90” or 140/90mmHg, it means you have a systolic pressure of 140mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 90mmHg.
As a general guide:
- normal blood pressure;is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
- high blood pressure;is considered to be;140/90mmHg or higher
- low blood pressure;is considered to;be 90/60mmHg or lower
A blood pressure reading between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you don’t take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.
What Is Normal Blood Pressure For Women
Did you know high blood pressure is common among women? Especially for women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. In fact, women who have gone through menopause are at an even greater risk.
Health Harvard explains, By the time they reach their 60s and 70s, 70% of women have high blood pressure. After age 75, that figure rises to nearly 80%, according to the CDC. This is why prevention is so important! Here are the normal blood pressure readings for women by age:
- Age 18-29
- Age 40-59
- Age 60+
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Who Is Affected By High Blood Pressure
Approximately 1 in 3, more than 100 million, American adults have high blood pressure. But only half of those people have their condition under control. Many people develop high blood pressure when they are in their late 30s or early 40s, and it occurs more frequently as people age. However, because of the obesity epidemic, more and more children are also developing high blood pressure.
Why Is It Important To Know If You Have High Blood Pressure
Early detection of high blood pressure is very important. Often referred to as the silent killer because it may show no symptoms, high blood pressure puts you at an increased risk for heart disease, heart failure, and stroke, among other things. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, more than 360,000 deaths in the United States included high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause.
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When Should I Get My Blood Pressure Tested
You can ask for a blood pressure test if you’re worried about your blood pressure at any point.
You can get your blood pressure tested at a number of places, including:
- at your local GP surgery
- at some pharmacies
- at home
- at an;NHS Health Check;appointment offered to adults in England aged 40-74
It’s recommended that all adults over 40 years of age have their blood pressure tested at least every five years so any potential problems can be detected early.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with high or low blood pressure, or you’re at a particularly;high risk of these problems, you may need to have more frequent tests to monitor your blood pressure.
Which Number Is More Important
Typically, more attention is given to systolic blood pressure as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50. In most people, systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age due to the increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term buildup of plaque and an increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.
However, either an elevated systolic or an elevated diastolic blood pressure reading may be used to make a diagnosis of high blood pressure. According to recent studies, the risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke doubles with every 20 mm Hg systolic or 10 mm Hg diastolic increase among people from age 40 to 89.
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How To Avoid Hypertension
Many factors come together to cause hypertension. While you cant change things like your age, genetics, or medical conditions there are many steps you can take every day to improve your numbers .
Start by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetable and decreasing your intake of salt. Excessive sodium consumption is of the number one controllable causes of the condition.
Its also important to control your weight and exercise frequently as well as avoid smoking and alcohol consumption. Other factors to consider include stress levels and nutritional deficiencies.
Stroke And Brain Problems
High blood pressure can cause the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain to burst or be blocked, causing a stroke. Brain cells die during a;stroke;because they do not get enough oxygen. Stroke can cause serious disabilities in speech, movement, and other basic activities. A stroke can also kill you.
Having high blood pressure, especially in midlife, is linked to having poorer cognitive function and dementia later in life. Learn more about the link between high blood pressure and dementia from the National Institutes of Healths Mind Your Risks®external icon;campaign.
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Check Your Blood Pressure At Home
The new guidelines note that blood pressure should be measured on a regular basis and encourage people to use home blood pressure monitors. Monitors can range from $40 to $100 on average, but your insurance may cover part or all of the cost. Measure your blood pressure a few times a week and see your doctor if you notice any significant changes. Here are some tips on how to choose and use a monitor.
- Select a monitor that goes around your upper arm. Wrist and finger monitors are not as precise.
- Select an automated monitor, which has a cuff that inflates itself.
- Look for a digital readout that is large and bright enough to see clearly.
- Consider a monitor that also plugs into your smartphone to transfer the readings to an app, which then creates a graph of your progress. Some devices can send readings wirelessly to your phone.
Do I Have High Blood Pressure
One reason to visit your doctor regularly is to have your blood pressure checked. Routine checks of your blood pressure will help pick up an early rise in blood pressure, even though you might feel fine. If there’s an indication that your blood pressure is high at two or more checkups, the doctor may ask you to check your blood pressure at home at different times of the day. If the pressure stays high, even when you are relaxed, the doctor may suggest exercise, changes in your diet, and, most likely, medications.
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Normal Blood Pressure For Men And Women By Age
A normal blood pressure reading indicates that the heart and blood vessels are not working too hard pushing blood and that the blood is not exerting too much pressure on the walls of the vessels, says Aseem Desai, M.D., a cardiologist at Providence Mission Hospital in Southern California. Recent data from the American Heart Association suggests the optimal normal reading for adults over 20 is lower than 120/80 mmHgVirani S, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics 2021 update . American Heart Association Journal. 2021;143:e254-e743. .
Dr. Desai notes blood pressure can vary depending on a persons age, gender, race and ethnicity, but it should still fall within the general normal range. While numbers lower than 120/80 are generally considered normal, Dr. Desai adds, The target blood pressure for treatment varies depending on age and associated co-morbidities .
Previously, guidance for normal blood pressure for adults varied by gender and specific age, but new data states normal blood pressure for adults as a collective is less than 120/80 mmHgHigh Blood Pressure Symptoms and Causes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 7/16/2021. .
When it comes to race and ethnicity, Dr. Desai says certain groups have a higher rate of hypertension. Non-Hispanic Black people have a significantly higher rate of hypertension compared to non-Hispanic white people, and Hispanics and non-Hispanic Asians have lower rates than the first two, he says.