What is normal blood pressure by age?

Blood pressure is the pressure blood exerts on the arteries as the heart pumps. Blood pressure increases with age, but normal blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg or lower.
Blood pressure is the pressure blood exerts on the arteries as the heart pumps. Blood pressure increases with age, but normal blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg or lower.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common condition in the United States. Data shows that in 2018, almost 500,000 deaths in the country cited hypertension as either a primary or contributing cause. High blood pressure contributes to dangerous conditions and illnesses, including heart disease and stroke, both of which cause millions of deaths each year.

It’s important to know what normal blood pressure is so you can keep track of your levels regularly and maintain your health. 

The American Heart Association sets the guidelines for the accepted normal, and the organization updated their blood pressure chart by age in 2017 to reflect the following numbers:

  • Normal: Systolic less than 120 millimeters of mercury and diastolic less than 80 millimeters of mercury (120/80)
  • Elevated: Systolic 120 to 129 millimeters of mercury and diastolic less than 80 millimeters of mercury (120-129/80)
  • High blood pressure or hypertension stage 1: systolic 130 to 139 millimeters of mercury or diastolic 80 to 89 millimeters of mercury (130-139/80-89)
  • High blood pressure or hypertension stage 2: systolic 140 millimeters of mercury or higher or diastolic 90 millimeters of mercury or higher (140/90)
  • Hypertensive crisis: systolic higher than 180 millimeters of mercury and/or diastolic higher than 120 millimeters of mercury (180/120)

These guidelines now apply to all adults. Previously, people younger than age 65 had a threshold of 140/90, and 150/80 for those 65 and older. Because blood pressure tends to increase as you age, it’s important to pay close attention to your measurements, especially as you get older.

Additionally, older people often have a higher systolic number but a lower diastolic number. This is also known as isolated systolic hypertension and is more common with age.

Symptoms of high blood pressure

High blood pressure usually has no symptoms at all and is considered a “silent condition.” The only way to know for sure whether you have high, low, or normal blood pressure is to measure it regularly, or go to a doctor to have it measured for you.

However, there are a few symptoms that might indirectly result from hypertension.They include:

  • Facial flushing
  • Dizziness
  • Blood spots in the eyes

While these symptoms may not guarantee you have high blood pressure, it is still wise to seek medical attention if you experience them, as they could also be causes of other dangerous conditions.

It is important to note that high blood pressure does not tend to cause nosebleeds or headaches. If you have high blood pressure along with nosebleeds or headaches, you may be in a hypertensive crisis. To make sure, wait 5 minutes and retest your blood pressure. If it’s still high, call emergency services.

Tests for normal blood pressure

When you go in for a doctor’s visit, they will usually check your blood pressure. This includes going in for normal checkups, specialist visits, OBGYN appointments, and others. This is to ensure that your blood pressure is staying normal, which is important to monitor since there are no symptoms of high blood pressure. If your doctor doesn’t take your blood pressure, you can usually request that they do so.

Blood pressure is measured with an inflatable cuff around your upper arm. You or your doctor will inflate the cuff, slowly letting air out. A gauge will provide the measurement. It only takes a minute or two and is generally painless. You can also measure your blood pressure at a pharmacy with a measurement machine.

If your blood pressure is high, the nurse or doctor may measure it a few times to get a more accurate reading. If it is still high, they may ask you to monitor your blood pressure at home and report back. If it stays high, you may need to take a urine test, a blood test for a cholesterol screening, and sometimes even an electrocardiogram, or EKG/ECG, to get a better look at the heart. 

Causes of high blood pressure

A major cause of high blood pressure is genetics. If your family has a history of hypertension, you may have a higher risk.

Other risk factors include the following:

In addition, adults who are middle-aged or elderly have a higher risk of developing hypertension. 

Treatments for high blood pressure

If your doctor has diagnosed you with hypertension, they may suggest that you make lifestyle changes before they put you on medication. Changes may include the following:

Often, diet and exercise alone can lower someone’s blood pressure, but a health professional should still monitor it. 

If these changes don’t lower high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend medication, especially if you have already had a heart attack or stroke, or if you are in stage 2 hypertension.

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Medically Reviewed on 2/16/2021
References
Sources:

American Heart Association: "What are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?"

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Facts About Hypertension."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Measure Your Blood Pressure."

Circulation: "Age, Blood Pressure Targets, and Guidelines."

Harvard Health Publishing: "Reading the new blood pressure guidelines."

John Hopkins Medicine: "High Blood Pressure/Hypertension."

National Institute on Aging: "High Blood Pressure."