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Your blood pressure measures how hard the blood in your veins pushes against your blood vessel walls. When that number becomes elevated, it signals that your heart is working in overdrive to send blood out to different parts of the body.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is what it’s called when your heart is working too hard. This extra work is dangerous and can eventually lead to serious heart conditions like atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), stroke, kidney disease and even heart failure.
We’re here to explain the five main blood pressure ranges so you can better stay on top of your health by paying attention to your numbers.
Blood Pressure Ranges
The five main blood pressure ranges, as recognized by the American Heart Association, are:
- Normal: Below 120/80
- Elevated: 120 to 129/less than 80
- Stage 1 high blood pressure: 130 to 139/80 to 89
- Stage 2 high blood pressure: 140 and above/90 and above
- Hypertension crisis: above 180/above 120
How to Read Your Numbers
Your blood pressure measures two different functions of your heart and arteries. The top number (such as 120) is your systolic blood pressure. This measures how hard your blood pushes against your veins when the heart beats.
The bottom number (such as 80) is the diastolic blood pressure. It measures the pressure in blood vessels when the heart rests between beats. Together, these numbers (written as 120/80, for example) give your doctor a clear picture of your heart health.
Why Your Numbers Are Important
Your blood pressure is an important indicator of your overall health, and high blood pressure can be an early warning sign of serious heart disease. That’s why paying attention to your numbers is so important. Everyone should have their blood pressure measured at least once a year at a wellness visit, and more often if you have a history of high blood pressure.
Let’s look at the five main ranges in more detail and what to do in each case.
Normal: Below 120/80
Blood pressure numbers that are less than 120/80 are considered normal and healthy. If your results fall into this category, keep up the good work and stick with heart-healthy habits like following a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
Elevated: 120 to 129/Less Than 80
Elevated blood pressure is when readings consistently range from 120 to 129 systolic and less than 80 diastolic. People with elevated blood pressure are likely to develop high blood pressure if the condition remains unmanaged.
Stage 1 High Blood Pressure: 130 to 139/80 to 89
Stage 1 high blood pressure is when your numbers consistently range from 130 to 139 systolic or 80 to 89 diastolic. At this stage of high blood pressure, your doctor will likely recommend lifestyle changes and may consider prescribing blood pressure medication, depending on your risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD). These changes may help you avoid serious complications like a heart attack or stroke.
Stage 2 High Blood Pressure: 140 and Above/90 and Above
Stage 2 high blood pressure is when your numbers consistently range at 140/90 or higher. At this stage of high blood pressure, your doctor will most likely prescribe a combination of blood pressure medications and lifestyle changes.
Hypertension Crisis: Higher Than 180/Higher Than 120
This stage of high blood pressure requires medical attention. If your blood pressure readings suddenly exceed 180/120, wait five minutes and test your blood pressure again. If your readings are still unusually high, contact your doctor right away. You could be experiencing a hypertensive crisis.
If your blood pressure is higher than 180/120 and you’re experiencing signs of possible organ damage, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness or weakness, changes in vision or difficulty speaking, don’t wait to see if your pressure comes down on its own. Call 911 immediately.
How to Manage High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, be sure to follow your doctor’s advice, taking your prescriptions as directed and following lifestyle recommendations.
Lifestyle changes can make all the difference in your blood pressure numbers. Whether you have high blood pressure or it’s normal and you simply want to stay in a healthy range, the following lifestyle choices can help tremendously:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes
- Exercise regularly, aiming for 30 minutes of moderate activity most days, and every day if possible
- Limit alcohol intake, saving it for special occasions
- Prioritize relaxation (chronic stress hurts your heart)
Discover Expert Care With Your Heart in Mind
If you or a loved one would benefit from our world-class cardiovascular care, reach out to AdventHealth Heart and Vascular Care today. From pioneering new procedures to advancing care for complex conditions, our expertise revolves around keeping your heart healthy.