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What do blood pressure readings mean?

Blood pressure readings can vary in a single person throughout the day depending on the situation. Factors such as stress, anxiety, foods eaten (caffeine or salt intake), smoking, or exercise can cause pressure to rise.

The American Heart Association defines a normal blood pressure as less than 120/80. Pre-hypertension ranges between 120/80 and 139/89, and high blood pressure is 140/90 and higher. In pregnancy normal blood pressure should be below 120/80.

If your blood pressure reaches into the high range, you should see your doctor about lifestyle modification and possibly medication especially if you have other risk factors, such as diabetes or heart disease.

High blood pressure (for example, 180/110 or higher) may indicate an emergency situation. If this high blood pressure is associated with chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, dizziness, or back or abdominal pain, seek medical care immediately. If you are experiencing no associated symptoms with a high blood pressure reading such as this, re-check it again within a few minutes and contact your doctor or go to an emergency room if it is still high.

If your blood pressure is lower than about 100/60 you may have low blood pressure, depending on the associated symptoms. If you are unsure, check with your doctor.

Return to High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

See what others are saying

Comment from: femaleyoung, 19-24 Female (Patient) Published: April 30

I never knew anything about blood pressure until I was told that I needed to switch my birth control pills at only age 21. Ever since then my pressure has been out of control. Whenever I have it checked at the doctor's office or even at the dentist they always look at me strangely and tell me how high it is and give me these strange looks and even ask me why I have high blood pressure so young. This is frustrating. I bought a home blood pressure monitor that I use at home and when I wake up it is normal and throughout the day it goes up a little but nothing like at the doctor's office. For some reason after about 8 pm my blood pressure skyrockets. It's usually the bottom number that is above 100! When I went to the emergency room just to make sure it was accurate I checked it there and the reading was high with my monitor just like with theirs, just off by a few numbers. I have lost almost 50 pounds since my diagnosis and reduced my salt intake to about 1000 mg a day and that is hard to do since everything that used to seem healthy is loaded with sodium and after this my blood pressure went even higher. I am so tired of doctors just throwing pills at me and saying they don't know what is causing this. I had lab tests run and the doctor said my sugars are good and she also said that my cholesterol levels were excellent, something just doesn't make sense. My life would be so much better if I could get this cured and don't have to deal with it anymore. High blood pressure is ruining my life. I have a 1 year old and a baby on the way and I have to plan my life around high blood pressure. I want answers, not pills that are just masking the real problem.

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Comment from: 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: August 28

I have high blood pressure and been on lisinopril for 2 months no but before I was put on it I would get headaches and so dizzy to the point of getting sick from being dizzy, and my feet up to my knee would swell. But since I've been on medications I have no dizziness and fewer headaches, but my feet still swell and they hurt daily due to swelling.

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Comment from: dave, 75 or over Male (Patient) Published: June 24

I am taking 5 mg amlodipine, 100 mg losartan, 20 mg Bystolic and still blood pressure is only 145/70. Diastolic is always 70 to 75 but systolic goes from 140 to 150.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

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