Blood pressure, a health indicator

Blood pressure is the pressure with which blood acts against the walls of blood vessels.

A beating heart creates the pressure when it pumps fresh blood to the organs and tissues of your body, providing oxygen and nutrients.

Navigation tree (BP stands for blood pressure):
Blood pressure basics:
What is BP
Systolic BP
Diastolic BP
Causes and prevention::
Causes of high blood pressure
What causes low BP
What are the consequences of HBP
Symptoms::
High blood pressure symptoms
Low blood pressure symptoms
Measurement::
Measuring BP
Blood pressure chart
Blood pressure chart by age
Blood pressure chart in children
Normal blood pressure
High and low blood pressure
Treatment::
How to lower BP
Foods that lower BP

Physical inactivity, poor diet and stress gradually affects your health, which may result in elevated / decreased blood pressure. Therefore, with a healthy lifestyle you can do a lot for your health, starting today!

The BP (short for Blood Pressure) value does not only depend on lifestyle, but also on factors which can not be influenced – for example your genetics. High blood pressure or arterial hypertension is a very common chronic disease in the developed world, affecting nearly every second adult.

While very often elevated blood pressure shows no symptoms, it still damages your arteries (atherosclerosis) and weakens your heart. That is why it is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer”. To prevent this you must necessarily undergo a treatment.

What is blood pressure

Blood pressure is the pressure with which blood acts against the walls of your blood vessels. A beating heart creates pressure when it pumps fresh blood to the organs and tissues of your body, providing oxygen and nutrients.

A healthy adults heart beats (shrinks and expands) between 60 to 70 times in a minute. If your heart rate is higher or lower anytime, that does not necessarily mean you have a medical condition.

measuring blood pressureSince elevated blood pressure does not “hurt” and usually does not cause any visible changes it can only be determined by measurement.

Beats per minute value can vary depending on many factors (age, overall physical condition, genetics). A heart beat of 80 BPM or more (BPM stands for Beats Per Minute) can be treated as perfectly normal in some cases!

When we refer to blood pressure we always refer to two numbers in following format: 120/80, 100/60 or similar. The first number stands for systolic blood pressure, the second number stands for diastolic blood pressure.

Systolic blood pressure
When the heart shrinks and pushes the blood into main arteries (aortas), blood pressure rises for a moment – this is known as systolic blood pressure.

Diastolic blood pressure
After each shrinkage the heart expands again and is filled with new blood – at that moment blood pressure in the arteries drops for a moment – this is known as diastolic blood pressure.

High and low blood pressure

Blood pressure can either be normal, low or high. If it is elevated, you must seek medical advice. If it is low, seek medical advice only if you develop symptoms, described below. High blood pressure is anything above 140/90 mmGh. Low blood pressure is anything below 110/70 mmGh.

Normal blood pressure

Normal blood pressure for a healthy individual is between 120/80 and 139/89 mmGh. Although 139/89 mmGh is the upper limit and is considered borderline good blood pressure, it still may be treated as normal.

Average blood pressure is between 120/80 and 125/85 mmGh. Ideal blood pressure is below 120/80 mmHg.

For more information refer to blood pressure chart.

Normal blood pressure value is 120/80 mmGh, preferably less.
High blood pressure is anything above 140/90 mmGh.
Low blood pressure is anything below 110/70 mmGh.

What causes high blood pressure

The reason for permanent increase in blood pressure in the majority of cases (more than 95%) is not known – this is primary or essential arterial hypertension. Factors that may increase the possibility of you developing arterial hypertension are usually the following:

  • Poor diet with excessive use of salt,
  • obesity,
  • excessive alcohol consumption (more than 10 ounces (3 dcl) of wine or 3 ounces (1 dcl) spirits or 2 small beers every day),
  • physical inactivity.
  • By changing your lifestyle you can easily and naturally mitigate the risk.

    There are also factor on which you have no influence, but may cause your blood pressure to rise / drop. Causes of high blood pressure are:

  • inherited characteristics (genetics),
  • gender (male),
  • aging (after the age of 45, it gradually rises).
  • What are the consequences of high blood pressure?

    Prolonged high blood pressure can lead to vascular damage, and in worst case cause a heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and other complications. The risk increases linearly with the increase of blood pressure. The more it is increased, the greater the risk. People with high blood pressure are at seven times higher risk for stroke.

    Numerous studies have shown that successful treatment of high blood pressure decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease and lowers mortality, thus, it is very important that you undergo a treatment when you are diagnosed with high blood pressure.

    People with high blood pressure are at seven times higher risk for stroke.

    How to lower blood pressure

    How to lower high blood pressure? A single lifestyle change can have a great effect! Quit smoking, maintain a healthy body weight (loss of a few pounds – 5 to 10% of body weight – can significantly reduce blood pressure!).

    A healthy diet that contains as little salt and animal fat as possible will lower your blood pressure as well. Regular physical activity is also know to lower blood pressure.

    If blood pressure does not drop to normal levels drugs are prescribed. Carefully follow your doctor’s recommendation and take your medicine regularly.

    Treatment of high blood pressure with drugs is usually life-long, so the awareness of the patient about the medical condition and cooperation with the chosen doctor is of utmost importance. This way, treatment can be more successful.

    Foods that lower blood pressure

    Check out which food is advised to eat if you suffer from elevated blood pressure. Foods that lower blood pressure are the following:

    Raisins
    If you suffer from hypertension, have raisins stirred into your morning cereals. Combine raisins with nuts. For best results, eat a handful of raisins three times a day.

    Bananas
    Eating foods that are rich in potassium can affect your blood pressure level. An ideal example of food that contains a lot of potassium and is not too expensive is a banana.

    Watermelons
    Consuming watermelons will improve the health of your heart. This healthy fruit contains a special amino acid which lowers blood pressure.

    Tofu
    Not only tofu, but eating all soy products can help people who struggle with elevated blood pressure as soy contains an ingredient called isoflavone which may help to lower blood pressure. Green tea also contains isoflavone.

    Chocolate
    Not expected to be on this list, but chocolate contains flavonoids, which may help to lower blood pressure. Do not buy a classic chocolate, but rather purchase a chocolate containing a high percentage of cocoa (at least 70%). Such chocolate is also filled with antioxidants. Do not overdo it though, as chocolate is very calorie-rich.

    Chili
    Many dishes can spiced with hot chili. Chili is rich in capsaicin, a substance proven to lower blood pressure.

    What causes low blood pressure

    When we talk about blood pressure we usually think of high blood pressure and the dangers it poses to our health. Much more rarely we hear about low blood pressure (also known as hypotension). But the condition of low blood pressure is not so rare. For some, low values do not cause any problems. But many times people who have low blood pressure find it really hard to start a new day full of energy.

    What causes low blood pressure is often unknown. Known factors for low blood pressure are:

  • certain diseases, infections and heart problems,
  • increased blood loss, salt and fluid loss (eg due to heavy sweating, vomiting or diarrhea ),
  • due to low blood pressure medication to lower high blood pressure.
  • Caution is required when using diuretics, which promote the excretion of water from the body. Sometimes, low blood pressure occurs during pregnancy, which can be dangerous to the fetus (because of the reduced blood flow to the placenta), which can lead to a delay in the growth of the child.

    How to cure low blood pressure

    When problems are severe it is necessary to visit your personal doctor. There are some medications that help normalize blood pressure and cope with problems. A visit to the doctor is necessary when problems arise suddenly, since only a doctor can make a diagnosis and prescribe an appropriate treatment.

    What can you do by yourself to lower blood pressure?
    First of all, get enough sleep! When waking up in the morning make sure you take enough time in bed to stretch. Stretch and relax your arms and legs to help “wake up” your bloodstream. Be careful when getting up from sitting position suddenly as you might faint or feel dizzy. When taking shower try alternating hot / cold water or a massage yourself with a soft brush – both improves blood circulation. It is also important to be physical active, which in fact is recommended to anyone who wants to take care of their health. Morning coffee and other caffeine-containing drinks in can be a short-term help for low blood pressure.

    When it comes to diet your food should contain enough water (at least 4 pints (1 litre) a day), meals should not be calorie rich because full stomach requires a lot of blood for digestion and will slow down your blood circulation even more.

    Almost every garden grows beetroot, which may help relieve problems caused by low blood pressure. You can either eat raw beetroot or drink beetroot juice (if you hate the taste you can try beetroot juice in combination with honey)

    Sport drinks containing a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals can be useful when blood pressure is low.

    High / low blood pressure symptoms

    High blood pressure symptoms are:

    Usually symptoms are totally absent. If symptoms show, signs of high blood pressure are the following:

  • headache,
  • dizziness,
  • blurred vision,
  • nosebleeds,
  • chest pain.
  • Headache generally occurs only when the blood pressure is really high. Headache typically occurs in the morning (it usually hurts in back of the head).

    Low blood pressure symptoms are:

    Most common low blood pressure symptoms are the following:

  • tiredness in the morning, lack energy throughout the day, dizziness and sleepiness,
  • headache, drowsiness, nausea, lack of appetite, cold hands and feet,
  • fainting (which can be dangerous, especially to pregnant women and the elderly).
  • Measuring blood pressure level

    Since elevated blood pressure does not “hurt” and usually does not cause any visible changes it can only be determined by measurement. If measured value is below 130/85 mmHg it is advised to re-check blood pressure within two years. If measured blood pressure is between 130/85 and 139/89 it is advised to re-check blood pressure within a year. If measured values are higher than 140/90 you must follow your doctor’s instructions.

    One measurement usually is not enough as errors might occur when performing measurement. If measured blood pressure is high that does not mean that you have hypertension, unless it is a very high value. The diagnosis of high blood pressure is usually based on several measurements in a given time interval (for example multiple measurements within a week, every day at the same time).

    Since elevated blood pressure does not “hurt” and usually does not cause any visible changes it can be determined only by measurement. Measure it often!

    How to measure blood pressure

    Basically, two types of blood pressure meters (or a sphygmomanometer) are available. Digital and non-digital. Both will provide same values. Always read the instructions before performing test. If blood pressure meter is not working, first check the battery.

    If you know how to measure BP, jump to blood pressure chart.

  • Before measurement it is necessary to calm down – sit down for 5 minutes.
  • The measurement should always be performed before eating (not on a full stomach) and every day at about the same time. Before measurement it is also not advised to drink coffee, alcohol or smoke cigarettes.
  • Cuff must be placed correctly – if measuring on the arm cuff should be placed above the elbow (elbow and cuff should be 2 fingers apart). If wrist cuff is used it should be placed one finger above the wrist,. Cuff must always be paced on the left arm as heart is on the left side of your chest. There are some rare occasions where people are born with heart on the right side of chest. In that case, cuff must be places on the right arm.
  • If you are very obese a wrist measurement is more handy.
  • It is very important to known that when performing measurement of blood pressure you need to set the meter to at least 40 mmHg higher pressure than your normal upper blood pressure is. If your normal systolic blood pressure is about 150 mmHg set your meter to least 190 mmHg. In semi-automatic blood pressure meter you can do this manually by pumping the air into cuff, on automatic meter this value is set by a button.
  • Take a few minutes between two consecutive measurements as blood vessels needs to expand properly again otherwise the second measurement will always be lower than the first.
  • Be aware that blood pressure normally fluctuates and two consecutive measurements will not show same result. That’s normal.
  • Patients with arrhythmia will usually get false results using electronic pressure gauge. The possibility of arrhythmia must be considered whenever the measurement shows “impossible” values, for example 150/135 mmHg. In that case it’s better to buy a classic mercury pressure gauges to obtain proper blood pressure value.
  • Enter your daily measurements of blood pressure into a special chart (chart usually comes with a purchase of the device). This information is very useful for your doctor and yourself.
  • For most reliable measurements it is recommended that you take your blood pressure meter to an authorized service center where they will re-calibrate it for you. Do this at least once per year.
  • Blood pressure chart

    Below you can find blood pressure chart. Click on the image to enlarge it.

    Additional blood pressure charts:
    Blood pressure chart A chart that displays levels of blood pressure levels.
    Blood pressure chart by age See how blood pressure changes over the years.
    Blood pressure chart for children See what are the average values of blood pressure in children.

    blood pressure chartBlood pressure chart displays all possible levels of blood pressure and comes in very handy when determining whether you are at risk or not!

    Additional resources:
    Download blood pressure log (pdf file) to keep track of your records: Blood pressure log.
    Download blood pressure chart in PDF.

    Blood pressure chart – possible values
    systolic blood pressure (mmHg) diastolic blood pressure (mmHg)
    optimal blood pressure 119, 118, 117, 116, 115, 114, 113, 112, 111, 110, 109, 108, 107, 106, 105, 104, 103, 102, 101, 100, 99, 98, 97, 96, 95 79, 78, 77, 76, 75, 74, 73, 72, 71, 70, 69, 68, 67, 66, 65
    normal blood pressure* 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129 80, 81, 82, 83, 84
    borderline normal blood pressure* 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139 85, 86, 87, 88, 89
    hypertension (stage 1) 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99
    hypertension (stage 2) 160, 161, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109
    hypertension (stage 3) more than 179 more than 109
    possible arterial hypertension** equal or more than 130 equal or more than 80
    isolated systolic hypertension*** more than 139 less than 90
    possible hypotension less than 90 less than 60

    Blood pressure chart is for orientation purposes only. Consult blood pressure chart at your own risk!
    * In some cases, a value of 120/80 or higher may represent an early stage of hypertension.
    ** For diabetics value of 130/80 can represent arterial hypertension.
    *** Isolated systolic hypertension occurs when only systolic pressure is increased, diastolic pressure remains normal.

    What is hypertension?
    Hypertension (also referred to as high blood pressure – HBP), is a condition in which the arteries have persistently elevated blood pressure.

    What is hypotension?
    Hypotension (also referred to as low blood pressure – LBP) means that your blood pressure is lower than the normal reading. Hypotension is usually harmless. In some cases, people with hypotension need medical attention.

    How blood pressure changes over the years
    Below you can find blood pressure chart which displays values of blood pressure depending on age. Following values are average values for a specific age group.

    Average blood pressure values chart by age
    Age Systolic blood pressure (mmHg) Diastolic blood pressure (mmHg)
    3 to 6 116 75
    7 to 10 121 77
    11 to 13 125 82
    14 to 16 136 87
    17 to 19 120 85
    20 to 24 120 79
    25 to 29 120 80
    30 to 34 122 81
    35 to 39 123 81
    40 to 44 125 83
    45 to 49 125 84
    50 to 54 128 85
    55 to 59 131 86
    60+ 134 87

    Values are averages.

    What are expected values of blood pressure in children?
    Children normally have lower blood pressure which rises over the years, while heart beat rate usually drops over the years.

    Blood pressure chart for children
    Age Boys (systolic/diastolic in mmHg) Girls (systolic/diastolic in mmHg)
    1 to 3 between 80/34 and 120/75 83/38 – 117/76
    4 to 6 between 88/47 and 128/84 88/50 – 122/83
    7 to 10 between 92/53 and 130/90 93/55 – 129/88

    Values are averages.

    Conclusion

    Blood pressure is a good indicator of your overall health, although slightly elevated blood pressure does not necessarily indicates a medical condition or risk.

    It is a good idea to regularly check your blood pressure and consult your doctor in case you find your blood pressure levels to be elevated.

    End of the article.


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    13 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

    1. Shemary November 15, 2014 at 4:44 pm - Reply

      Im 15 years old.My sys is 86,dia is 62 and bpm is 106.
      Should i visit a doctor

    2. Cosmos August 9, 2014 at 8:07 pm - Reply

      I have Bp of 196/82 this morning .what will I do?

    3. CQ July 30, 2014 at 5:57 pm - Reply

      What does it mean when my systolic is average for my age (122), but the diastolic is slightly low (67)?

      I’m 47, male, and my resting heart rate is 64. I don’t run often (1-2 times per week, 3-6km) but ride often and hard (35-60km three times per week) and do some light weight lifting.

      I’ve never smoked, drink very little, never had surgery nor any medical problems beyond broken bones, and had none of the complaints reported by other people above.

    4. teresa July 10, 2014 at 4:03 pm - Reply

      very informative information.
      thanks

    5. Tracy May 14, 2014 at 12:53 pm - Reply

      My BP this morning was 101/84 with a resting pulse rate of 141. I see a Cardiologist bc my norm is usually on point at 120/80. Since last summer I’ve had terrible palpitations and dizziness. Over the last 6 months I’ve been experiencing a type of vertigo and a feeling of syncope overcomes me but usually while I’m driving. I’ve also experienced double vision and have passed out and came to with a type of convulsion. My jaw locked during one my brother said and had uncontrolled upper body and eye movement but I remember it happening. I’m not able to get any answers and my doc is actually sending me to another specialist at CCF. The heart racing goes away within about a minute or so after it happens but it usually starts up after I feel light headed and dizzy. Then I feel faint and my heart rate increases. I was put on 5mg of Midodrine 3x daily but it doesnt seem to increase my pressure by much. Any thoughts on this?

      Looking for answers.

    6. Maria February 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm - Reply

      Is blood pressure 133 / 89 in the morning OK?
      Please reply. Thank you. Maria

      • Tony77 February 11, 2014 at 8:39 am - Reply

        I woudn’t say your BP level is high but it seems slightly increased due to diastolic value being over 85.
        Maybe talk to your personal doctor and see what he or she has to say about your blood pressure level.
        Tony

    7. Mike January 23, 2014 at 1:02 pm - Reply

      Hello. My measured blood pressure today was 127/85 mmHg. Is this values still considered normal or should I visit a doctor? Thank you.

      • Healthiack January 23, 2014 at 1:09 pm - Reply

        These numbers are nothing to worry about. Measure your blood pressure every day at the same time for 5 days and write down an average result. You can use our blood pressure log to record your measurements. If your blood pressure is not increasing than everything is fine. It’s perfectly normal for some people to have slightly increased blood pressure (due to genetics).

    8. AliceK December 25, 2013 at 3:08 pm - Reply

      Is this blood pressure chart universal? I mean, is it valid for both men and women? How does blood pressure change over the years? I’ve looked for different bp chart – they all show a bit different values.
      Regards, Alice

    9. berg71 November 3, 2013 at 5:15 pm - Reply

      Thank you for blood pressure chart! Very useful. Only 1 thing – can you please post a larger version of blood pressure chart? Thank you. Tim

    10. Joni November 3, 2013 at 2:43 pm - Reply

      This is a great article on blood pressure, very good facts! The foods listed to lower blood pressure was new to me though.
      Thank you for taking the time to put all this together!
      Joni

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