Ask the Doctor: What’s a normal blood pressure?
Answer provided by E. Julius Aitsebaomo, MD, a cardiologist with Augusta Health Cardiology in the Heart & Vascular Center at Augusta Health.
Dr. Aitsebaomo attended the University of Texas Medical School and completed a fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His professional interests are cardiovascular care and echocardiography. Dr. Aitsebaomo is married with two children, and enjoys tennis and soccer.
Contact Augusta Health Cardiology at (540) 332-4278. For general information about the practice, contact Renie Galford, Office Manager at (540) 245-7088 or rgalford1 [at] augustahealth.com.
Your blood pressure is given as two numbers, and usually referred to like a fraction: "Your blood pressure is 110 over 70".
The top number, called the systolic pressure, is also the higher number. It's the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and the heart muscle contracts.
The bottom number, called the diastolic pressure, is the lower number. It's the pressure in the arteries between the heart beats when the heart is resting and refilling with blood.
So what is normal blood pressure and what is high blood pressure, which is also called hypertension? We use this chart:
Less than 120
Less than 80
High Blood Pressure
High Blood Pressure
160 or higher
100 or higher
(Emergency Care Needed)
Higher than 180
Higher than 110
Your blood pressure goes up with each heartbeat and then lowers when the heart relaxes between its beats. So it does change when you exercise or are stressed or are sleeping. It should, though, normally be less than 120/80.
One single high blood pressure reading does not mean that you have high blood pressure. If you have a reading that's higher than normal, your doctor will take several readings over time, and even have you monitor your blood pressure at home before diagnosing you with high blood pressure. If, over time, it continues to be high, your doctor will begin a treatment program that includes lifestyle changes (adding physical activity and a healthy diet, quitting smoking, reducing salt intake, for example) and might include a prescription medication.
It's important to control your blood pressure because high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease. But even if your blood pressure is not high, adopting a healthy lifestyle is always a good idea. That can help prevent developing high blood pressure in the future.