Blood Pressure Readings
Understanding Your Blood Pressure Numbers

age charts for blood pressure


Blood Pressure Reading


What Does My Blood Pressure Reading Mean?
Blood Pressure Chart
Which Figure Is More Important, Systolic Or Diastolic?
Does One High Reading Mean I Have Hypertension?
Is Prehypertension Dangerous?
What Is An Optimal Blood Pressure Reading?

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Guide To Hypertension

What Does My Blood Pressure Reading Mean?

Blood pressure readings fall into 4 categories, ranging from normal to stage 2 hypertension. The type of treatment, if any, you receive will depend on which category you fall into. A normal blood pressure (bp) reading is 120/80 mm Hg. If you are equal to this number, or over on 2 or more different days you will be classified as either prehypertensive (borderline high blood pressure) or hypertensive. If you are diagnosed your doctor will immediately work with to reduce your bp to normal levels. The following is a blood pressure chart to help you figure out your status. If you have a reading which falls between 2 categories - say your systolic number falls into one group and your diastolic falls into another, then your correct category is the higher one. For example, if your bp measurement is 130/95 mm HG, then you have stage 1 hypertension and will require treatment for high blood pressure.

Blood Pressure Chart

Systolic mm Hg Diastolic mm Hg Category Treatment
Less than 120 Below 80 Normal Maintain a healthy lifestyle and have a blood pressure test every 2 years.
120-139 80-89 Prehypertension Adopt a healthy lifestyle and get tested at least once a year.
140-159 90-99 Stage 1 Hypertension Adopt a healthier lifestyle. If blood pressure is not reduced within 6 months, your doctor may prescribe 1 or more drugs.
160 or over 100 or over Stage 2 Hypertension Adopt a healthier lifestyle. You will be prescribed one or more medications.

Which Figure Is More Important, Systolic Or Diastolic?

Usually doctors pay more attention to the systolic blood pressure number because it is a major risk factor for heart disease in people over the age of 50. Systolic pressure can gradually increase with age as our arteries harden and become clogged with fatty deposits (a process called atherosclerosis). This raises your stroke risk factors and risk of a heart attack. It should be pointed out that high bp is NOT an inevitable result of aging. By adopting a healthy lifestyle (see hypertension prevention) it is perfectly possible to maintain normal levels after the age of 60.

Does One High Reading Mean I Have Hypertension?

No, a single high reading does not necessarily mean you are hypertensive. Bp can rise with stress, illness, exercise, cold, eating, smoking a cigarette, drinking coffee, or having a full bladder. Medications and drugs such as diet pills, decongestants, contraceptive pills, caffeine and antihistamines can also temporarily raise blood pressure and give a false positive. However, if you receive several readings on different days (over a 3 month period) and the numbers stay stubbornly high, you will receive a hypertension diagnosis. Your doctor will want to begin treatment immediately. For those with slightly elevated numbers this may just mean adopting lifestyle changes. For those with readings of 140/90 mm Hg or higher, prescription medications will be necessary. If at any time (for example if you are checking yourself with a home blood pressure monitor) you get a systolic reading of 180 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic reading of 110 mm HG or higher, then take another test again after a few minutes. If the reading is the same seek immediate emergency treatment - you are having a hypertensive crisis which is dangerous enough to cause a stroke. It sometimes occurs in people who forget to take their blood pressure drugs. Or it can occur in pregnancy and is a sign of preeclampsia, a highly dangerous pregnancy complication (for more information read about hypertension during pregnancy).

Is Prehypertension Dangerous?

Recent guidelines now identify people with prehypertension as being in a warning zone. About one in three American adults have prehypertension, many of whom are quite unaware of the fact (as the early symptoms of hypertension are usually silent). Many will go on to develop full blown hypertension in later life, but long before then, it appears their health can be affected. The risk of heart disease begins to climb at readings above 115/75 mm Hg. From this point onwards, every increase of 20/10 mm Hg doubles your chance of dying of coronary heart disease (CHD). Making changes to your lifestyle is the only way to prevent the progression to hypertension.

What An Optimal Blood Pressure?

The American Heart Association states that an ideal bp is less than 120/80 mm Hg. They also recommend screening every 2 years for all adults over the age of 20, if their bp is less than 120/80 mm Hg. If it is higher than testing more frequently, as well as home monitoring, may be recommended.

  Related Articles on Blood Pressure Readings

For more on raised blood pressure, see the following:

• Read about the causes of high blood pressure.
• For women taking oral contraceptives, read about the birth control pill and high blood pressure.

Back To Homepage: Womens Health Advice

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