The New Blood Pressure Chart: Where Do Your Numbers Fit?

High blood pressure can be a cause of heart failure, stroke, heart attack, and kidney damage. So, keep an eye on your blood pressure chart.

blood pressure chart

“We know we can prevent high blood pressure through diet, weight loss, and physical activity,” says Dr. Paul Whelton of Tulane University. “We can also treat it, and we can treat it effectively.”

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High blood pressure – hypertension – used to be when your blood pressure was consistently 140 over 90 or higher. In 2017, the American Heart Association (AHA) lowered the number to 130 over 80 and changed the blood pressure chart categories. [1]

The only way to know if you have hypertension, is to know your blood pressure numbers and where they fit in on the blood pressure chart. Knowing your numbers is the key to controlling your blood pressure. [2] This is really important because on the new chart, almost half of American adults fall into one of the high blood pressure categories. [1]

What Is Blood Pressure?

Your blood pressure is a measurement of the pressure inside your arteries, the blood vessels that carry blood away from your heart. High pressure on the walls of your arteries causes damage to the arteries and to other organs of your body. This damage usually occurs without any warning symptoms of hypertension. [3]

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). There are two numbers measured during a blood pressure check, and they are both important: [2]

  • Systolic blood pressure is the pressure inside arteries when your heart beats, forcing more blood through your arteries.
  • Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure inside arteries between heartbeats when your heart is relaxed.
  • The risk of death from heart disease or stroke doubles for each 20 mm Hg elevation of systolic blood pressure and each 10 mm Hg of diastolic blood pressure in adults ages 40 to 89.

The New Chart and Blood Pressure Categories

AHA now recognizes five blood pressure ranges and categories: [2]

  • If you are in the normal category, you do not need any treatment but you should stick to a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise routine.
  • If you are in the elevated category, you are likely to develop higher blood pressure and you should start making lifestyle changes to prevent higher blood pressure now.
  • Stage 1 hypertension always requires lifestyle changes and may require medication if you have other risk factors for heart attack or stroke.
  • Stage 2 hypertension usually requires both lifestyle changes and medication.
  • Hypertensive crisis always requires a call to your doctor and may require a 911 call if you have chest or back pain, difficulty breathing, numbness, weakness, or difficulty speaking.

To diagnose one of these categories, your blood pressure should consistently fall in the range on the chart. Your doctor will take your blood pressure several times at three or more office visits and may have you take your own pressure at home. All these readings will be factored into a diagnosis of hypertension. [3] Here is the new chart: [2]

  • Normal Blood Pressure: Systolic less than 120 and diastolic less than 80
  • Elevated Blood Pressure: Systolic 120 to 129 and diastolic less than 80
  • Stage 1 Hypertension: Systolic 130 to 139 or diastolic 80 to 89
  • Stage 2 Hypertension: Systolic 140 or higher or diastolic 90 or higher
  • Hypertensive Crisis: Systolic higher than 180 and/or diastolic higher than 120

Lifestyle Changes for Hypertension

Some people may need medications to control their blood pressure. There are many options depending on your overall health, blood pressure, and response to medication. Some people will need to take more than one type of medication. [3]

In many cases, lifestyle changes may be the only treatment you need. These lifestyle changes are important for everyone with hypertension: [3]

  • A heart-healthy diet
  • Limiting salt
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Not smoking
  • Managing stress

Blood Pressure Diet?

Help yourself and your blood pressure level by considering your diet. These University Health News posts will help lead you toward heart-healthy foods:

Sources

  1. Harvard Health Publishing, The new blood pressure guidelines: Massages you may have missed, https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/reading-the-new-blood-pressure-guidelines
  2. American Heart Association, Understanding Blood Pressure Readings, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/understanding-blood-pressure-readings
  3. Mayo Clinic, High blood pressure (hypertension), https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373410

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Chris Iliades, MD

Chris Iliades has an MD degree and 15 years of experience as a freelance writer. Based in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, his byline has appeared regularly on many health and medicine … Read More

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Comments Comments Policy
  • my bp was 150/80 this month and I am 73. My Dr. says I have old age hypertension. I do not want to go on anti hypertensive drugs with side effects. I started on 500 mg L- Arginine bid. Please comment

  • Try that and maybe a garlic pill which is supposed to lowering BP 10%. Doctors are way too quick to reach for the script pad!

  • I’ve read that you should take your BP 3 times 2-3 minutes apart then average the 3 reading to get a proper reading….is this true?? Why don’t they do this at the Dr office….I’ve asked them to retake my BP at the Dr office and when they do the readings get better.

  • my bp has been ranging between 140– 160/90-120. what do I use, I am 31 years been taking medications though but want try something else.

  • I just started using high blood pressure medication and purchased a blood pressure meter at age 72. what concerns me is that the BP readings I get have a very wide variance in. I measure every morning as soon as I wake up, while still in bed and prior to having any coffee. I take 3 or 4 readings. I have found that on any given day my reading can vary from 126 to 143 systolic and the diastolic reading from 68 to 87. this wide variance makes it very difficult to track trends. My questions are: is this normal? is my instrument possibly defective? How can my cardiac doctor make a decision to put me on life long medication based on SINGLE reading in his office?

  • This is farce a single reading means nothing
    BP is ideally measured in optimum conditions
    Relaxing over 2 hours
    Repeat every week
    For one month and then conclude

  • Peter, I’ve been using a blood pressure meter for nearly 30 years, so my response is based on my personal experience and information I’ve acquired over the years. First, I suggest that you take your meter to the doctor and have them check several readings of your meter against theirs. For example, If your meter consistently shows it’s 10 points lower than the doctor’s, just delete the 10 points from your meter reading (have them check both numbers so you can adjust both as necessary). Also, it’s common that many doctor’s offices take your blood pressure incorrectly (you should actually sit still for 5 minutes, with your feet on the floor and the cuff at the same level as your heart) . Some of us have”white coat” hypertension, so you may always be elevated at the doctor’s office. If you are a large man, you (and your doctor’s office) may need to use a larger cuff as the wrong size of cuff can affect your reading. Also, I spoke with customer service at one of the companies that makes many of the home & professional meters, and she told me that the automated machines are not very accurate if you have kidney disease or heart failure (I have both). Ask the doctor’s staff to always use the manual system and it will be more accurate than those noisy automatic ones.
    As for when to check your blood pressure, the most important thing is to do it consistently the same time of the day (ask the doctor which time he prefers and also what time in relation to taking your medication). The following article has a lot of good information for someone just starting to monitor their blood pressure: https://www.drugs.com/cg/how-to-take-a-blood-pressure.html

  • I am 83 years old male, and I am on blood pressure meds, and I just took my blood pressure and it was 94/53 is this a problem?

  • I had high blood pressure for 20 years, but we could never find the cause of it, and no Western medicine ever managed to reduce it. I am accustomed to take ramipril 5 mg, it does not work very well. I see the doctor every week. I was full of worry. I need advice and some direction. While surfing the internet I stumbled upon a testimony from someone who had high blood pressure got heal. I was more than willing to try it. I contacted the doctor I was lucky when I received a response from Dr.fabien. I followed your instructions, I used this Herbal Medicine in less than 1 week, my blood pressure is now normal! totally free on side effects. Thank goodness for a wonderful doctor, Anyone living with unexplained high blood pressure needs to use this herbal medicine. Contact call 832 734-3657

  • I have read all your comments. Very interesting. What is the name of the herbal medicine? I need to be cure of my hypertension.

  • The ‘Herbal Medicine’ could be anything from Cannabis to Ginseng. Michael’s comment looks like a sales pitch from a Chinese bot given the broken English and the phone number.
    Seriously just consult with your doctor, get a second opinion if needed, and try to keep a healthy diet and exercise.

  • always bp rise if am before the Dr but if measured at home or office show low, that means i have white coat blood pressure

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