A blood pressure chart by age and gender helps know if your blood pressure is normal or dangerous.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a serious health problem for adults. As you or a loved one ages, you’re worried about how high blood pressure can cause problems such as heart attack, dementia, or stroke.
The good news is you can catch it early. And you can lower your blood pressure naturally with simple lifestyle changes.
In this article, you’ll learn what is normal blood pressure and its ranges, why high blood pressure is dangerous, what causes it, and how to lower blood pressure. Plus, learn how one culture maintains normal blood pressure their entire lives.
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against your blood vessel walls when your heart pumps blood (1). Your blood pressure is highest when your heart contracts and lowest when it rests.
Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers; systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
- Systolic blood pressure is the higher number recorded on the top. Systolic is the pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts (or beats) and pumps blood throughout your body.
- Diastolic blood pressure is the lower number recorded on the bottom. Diastolic is the pressure on your arteries between heartbeats when your heart relaxes and fills with blood.
Systolic and diastolic blood pressures are recorded as “mm Hg” (millimeters of mercury). For example, a blood pressure of systolic 120 and a diastolic of 80 is called “120 over 80” or written as “120/80 mm Hg”.
Blood pressure is a good thing because it’s a force that helps deliver oxygen and nutrients through your circulatory system to all your organs. Blood pressure changes throughout the day depending on your body’s current needs. But consistently high or low blood pressure is a problem.
Your healthcare provider will determine if your blood pressure is normal by comparing your numbers to certain guidelines.
Blood Pressure Ranges
The treatment you need depends on your blood pressure range. The current blood pressure ranges include (3):
- Low blood pressure (hypotension): systolic blood pressure under 90 or diastolic under 60 (2).
- Normal blood pressure: systolic pressure under 120 and diastolic under 80 (120/80). If your blood pressure is normal, maintain or develop healthy habits.
- Elevated blood pressure: systolic pressure between 120 and 129 and diastolic under 80. If you have elevated blood pressure, you may develop high blood pressure unless you take steps to lower it.
- Stage 1 high blood pressure: systolic pressure between 130 and 139 and diastolic between 80 and 89. At Stage 1, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes and may consider prescribing medication based on your heart attack or stroke risk.
- Stage 2 high blood pressure: systolic pressure of 140 or higher and diastolic 90 or higher. At Stage 2, your doctor may prescribe lifestyle changes and blood pressure medications.
- Hypertensive crisis: a blood pressure reading that exceeds 180/120 mm Hg and remains high when measured again five minutes later. You may also have chest pain, difficulty breathing, numbness/weakness, vision problems, or difficulty speaking. Call 911 if you or someone is having a hypertensive crisis.
If your systolic and diastolic blood pressure is in two different categories, your correct blood pressure is in the higher category. For example, if your blood pressure is 130/80 mm Hg, it’s considered stage 1 hypertension.
Blood Pressure Chart By Category
|BLOOD PRESSURE CATEGORY||Systolic mmHg (top number)||and/or||Diastolic mmHg (bottom number)|
|NORMAL BlOOD PRESSURE||BELOW 120||and||BELOW 80|
|ELEVATED BlOOD PRESSURE||120 –129||and||BELOW 80|
|HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (HYPERTENSION) STAGE 1||130 – 139||or||80 – 89|
|HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (HYPERTENSION) STAGE 2||140 OR HIGHER||or||90 OR HIGHER|
|HYPERTENSIVE CRISIS (Seek medical help immediately)||ABOVE 180||and/or||ABOVE 120|
Blood pressure ranges are based on the American Heart Association recommendations.
Note: Your blood pressure diagnosis must be confirmed with your medical provider. Your medical provider may want several blood pressure readings before diagnosing hypertension.
Blood Pressure Chart By Age and Gender
Read the chart below to learn what is normal blood pressure by age and gender.
What Are the Types of High Blood Pressure?
If you have high blood pressure, your medical provider will diagnose you with either primary or secondary high blood pressure (4).
- Primary (essential) high blood pressure is the most common type of high blood pressure. Its causes include aging, unhealthy habits, and not getting enough exercise. Primary hypertension generally increases with age.
- Medical conditions or medication side effects cause secondary high blood pressure.
How To Get Accurate Blood Pressure Readings At Home
Your medical provider may recommend taking your blood pressure home because of “white coat hypertension.” White coat hypertension means the stress of being at the doctor’s office raises your blood pressure.
The American Heart Association recommends the following guidelines for measuring blood pressure: (5)
- Go to the bathroom before measuring blood pressure. A full bladder can add 10-15 mm Hg to blood pressure readings.
- Don’t smoke or use any nicotine products for at least 30 minutes, and don’t consume caffeine for at least an hour before taking your blood pressure.
- Relax for at least five minutes.
- Sit with your feet and back supported. Keep your feet on the ground and keep your legs uncrossed. Having unsupported feet and back can add 6 mm Hg to your pressure readings, and crossed legs can add 2 to 4 mm Hg.
- Don’t talk during the test. Talking or active listening can add 10 mm Hg to your blood pressure readings.
- Keep your arm relaxed and supported at heart level on a solid flat surface. Having an unsupported arm can add 10 mm Hg to blood pressure readings.
- Select a monitor designed for your upper arm. Wrist and finger monitors are less accurate.
- Follow the directions that come with the blood pressure monitor for correct use.
- Place the blood pressure cuff an inch above your elbow.
- Make sure the cuff fits your arm. A loose cuff gives a falsely lower blood pressure. And a tight cuff gives a falsely higher reading (6).
- Take your blood pressure at the same time every day.
- Take two to three readings one minute apart and record each reading.
- Record the date, time, and blood pressure reading in a journal
- Take your blood pressure journal to your next medical appointment.
- Tell your medical provider if you have several high blood pressure readings. Or when your provider tells you to contact them if your blood pressure readings are out of the normal range.
- Get emergency medical attention if your systolic (top number) reaches 180 or your diastolic (bottom number) reaches 110 or higher.
How Do You Feel When Your Blood Pressure Is High?
Generally, you can’t feel high blood pressure (7). High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” because it generally doesn’t have symptoms. You may not feel it, but high blood pressure can cause damage to your body. That’s why routine checkups are important for early detection.
What Are the Risk Factors of High Blood Pressure?
You can control some high blood pressure risk factors, such as diet and exercise. But some high blood pressure risk factors you can’t control, including the following:
- Age: Generally, your chance of getting high blood pressure increases with age. About nine out of ten Americans will develop hypertension in their lifetime (8).
- Family history: A history of hypertension in your family increases your chances of developing high blood pressure because of your similar genetics.
- Race: African Americans are more likely to develop high blood pressure than white people, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, or Alaska Natives (9).
Causes of secondary hypertension include (10):
- Adrenal gland tumors
- Being overweight or obese
- Certain birth defects
- Kidney disease
- Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines
- Medications (over-the-counter painkillers, cold remedies, and certain prescription drugs)
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Pregnancy (11)
- Thyroid problems
Your risk factors don’t determine whether you’ll develop high blood pressure. The genetic expression also plays a role. It would be best to keep your risk factors in mind but focus on what you can control. What lifestyle changes can help you reduce your blood pressure?
How To Lower Blood Pressure With Lifestyle Changes
If you have high blood pressure, you most likely have unidentified physical, chemical, or emotional stress. Unless you solve each one, your blood pressure may remain high. The following remedies can help lower blood pressure by reducing or eliminating each type of stress.
- Exercise: The American Heart Association recommends 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise three to four times a week (12). Why does exercise help blood pressure? Exercise helps improve your circulation and makes your arteries more flexible.
- Lose weight or maintain weight. Losing five percent of body weight reduces your blood pressure significantly (13). Generally, you may lower blood pressure by about 1 mm Hg per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of weight loss. (14)
- Try the Dash Diet. The DASH diet, one of the best non-pharmaceutical treatments for hypertension, can help lower systolic blood pressure by up to 11 mmHg (15). And seven days on a vegan diet is enough to lower systolic blood pressure by 8 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 4 mm Hg (16).
- Read food labels. Check food labels for hidden sodium, fat, added sugars, and hydrogenated oils.
- Get motivated to eat less salt. The Yanomamo people, a no-salt culture, have recorded the lowest salt intake (17). Not only do they have zero cases of hypertension, but those in their 50s have the same blood pressure as a 20-year-old! (18)
- Eat more nitrate-rich foods. Your body converts nitrates into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps dilate blood vessels and increases blood flow. Not only can it help lower blood pressure (19), but it can also improve your exercise performance.
- Drink less Alchohol. A study of 24,029 individuals found that moderate alcohol consumption, such as a glass of wine daily, doesn’t appear to increase life expectancy (20). The American Heart Association recommends no more than two drinks daily for men and one for women (21).
- Quit smoking. Nicotine raises blood pressure by damaging blood vessel walls, causing inflammation, and narrowing arteries (22).
- Get more quality sleep. Blood pressure drops 10 to 20% during normal sleep, or “nocturnal dipping” (23). If you don’t get quality sleep, your blood pressure remains higher for longer, damaging your arteries. A lack of nocturnal dipping is associated with hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, and sleep apnea.
- Practice intermittent fasting. One study found that those who ate between 8 AM and 3 PM dropped their blood pressure from 123/82 to 112/72 in five weeks (24).
- Try Tai Chi. A review of 1,604 patients found that people who practiced tai chi lowered systolic blood pressure by 15.55 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 10.66 mm Hg compared to those who didn’t practice (25).
- Practice Yoga. A review of studies found that, on average, yoga can lower diastolic blood pressure by 3.62 mm Hg and systolic by 4.17 mm Hg (26).
- Monitor your blood pressure at home to see which activities affect your bp.
Along with lifestyle changes, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help lower your blood pressure. Why not start with blood pressure medication?
Do Blood Pressure Medications Work?
Yes, blood pressure medications can help lower blood pressure while you’re taking them. But your blood pressure rises again if you stop taking them because blood pressure drugs don’t treat the cause (27).
Less than half of patients keep taking their blood pressure medications (27) for two reasons.
- You can’t feel high blood pressure.
- Blood pressure medications usually have unpleasant side effects such as cramps, fatigue, and erectile dysfunction.
If you don’t make lifestyle changes, don’t bother taking blood pressure medications, because they won’t work effectively” ~Luke Laffin, MD.
How Can You Bring Your Blood Pressure Down Quickly?
Your brain regulates blood pressure to survive in your environment. You can lower your blood pressure within a few minutes by activating your parasympathetic nervous system with deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or tai chi.
When your brain perceives a safe environment, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic lowers heart rate and blood pressure for digestion, healing, and rest. (heal, digest, and repair).
Your brain activates the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system when it perceives danger, real or imaginary. Your sympathetic system raises your heart rate and blood pressure to prepare your body for action.
What Are the Dangers of High Blood Pressure?
Generally, the higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk of serious health problems. Chronic high blood pressure (hypertension) can increase your risk of the following (28):
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Eye damage
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Kidney damage
- Metabolic syndrome
- Memory or comprehension problems
What Are The Blood Pressure Guideline Changes?
In 2018, the American Heart Association and ten other health organizations updated the blood pressure guidelines. The changes included the following (29):
- They lowered the blood pressure numbers for diagnosing hypertension (high blood pressure) to 130/80 mm Hg. The previous guidelines set a threshold of 140/90 mm Hg for people under age 65 and 150/80 mm Hg for people ages 65 and older.
- Eliminated the prehypertension category, defined as systolic of 120 to 139 mm Hg or diastolic of 80 to 89 mm Hg. Under the new guidelines, this category is split into either elevated blood pressure (120 to 129 systolic and under 80 diastolic) or Stage 1 hypertension which is 130 to 139 or 80 to 89 diastolic.
- High blood pressure is now classified as Stage 2 hypertension of 140/90 mm Hg. And a hypertensive crisis is anything over 180/120 mmHg.
Have Normal Blood Pressure, But Live An Extraordinary Life
You’re still concerned that your blood pressure is too high. And you don’t want high blood pressure to disrupt your life.
Today you learned some reasons why you may have high blood pressure. And now you have some simple lifestyle changes to discuss with your healthcare provider.
Would having a powerful “why” or passion for something make your life more interesting? Could it also motivate you to make healthy changes that could help lower your blood pressure?