What’s a Normal Blood Pressure?

Amy Barczy

| 4 min read

Amy Barczy is a brand journalist at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and writes for AHealthierMichigan.org and MIBluesPerspectives.com. Prior to joining Blue Cross, she was a statewide news reporter for MLive.com. She has a decade of storytelling experience in local news media markets including Lansing, Grand Rapids, Holland, Ann Arbor and Port Huron.

One of the first things health care providers often do when you visit their office is to take your blood pressure. That’s because blood pressure is an immediate screening tool for providers to be able to tell how your heart is functioning, and how hard it is working to pump blood through your body. 
A normal blood pressure reading is considered to be 120/80 mmHg or below, which is typically said as “120 over 80.” A blood pressure reading of 125/80 is considered elevated. A reading of 130/80 is considered high blood pressure, which doctors may diagnose as hypertension.
Blood pressure readings are divided in two parts. The first number is the systolic blood pressure – the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The second number is their diastolic blood pressure, which is the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests in between beats.
For about half of all American adults, their blood pressure is too high. High blood pressure increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and strike, as well as for chronic kidney disease that could lead to kidney failure. 
Managing your blood pressure is possible. Work with a health care provider to develop a treatment plan, which may include lifestyle changes like moderate exercise, a healthy, balanced diet and quitting smoking. Some medications are also available to address high blood pressure.

Symptoms of low blood pressure

Talk with your doctor about how often you need to monitor your blood pressure. While blood pressure checks are a standard part of an annual physical, your doctor may recommend more frequent monitoring depending on your particular circumstance.
There are numerous reasons why blood pressure may be lower than normal. While there is no official diagnosis of low pressure, a reading of 90/60 is considered to be hypotension and may lead to symptoms including:
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Neck or back pain
While a low blood pressure reading by itself is generally not considered to be a cause for alarm, talk with a health care provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms along with a low blood pressure.

Symptoms of high blood pressure

High blood pressure often carries no symptoms, which is why it’s important to regularly have your blood pressure checked – especially if your doctor has advised you to monitor yourself at home.
If your blood pressure is higher than 180/120, seek medical attention immediately.

What’s a stroke level blood pressure?

A review of academic studies on the topic found that in75% of acute stroke cases, patients had high blood pressure of greater than 140/90. High blood pressure significantly increases the risk of stroke in several ways.
High blood pressure can damage the arteries and cause them to narrow and harden, making it easier for fatty material to build up. This fatty material can break off, forming clots that can travel to the brain and cause an ischemic stroke.
High blood pressure can also damage the blood vessels deep inside the brain, causing issues with cognition and increasing the risk of stroke. When bleeding occurs inside the brain as a result, this is called a hemorrhagic stroke.

What causes high blood pressure?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high blood pressure develops over time. Some health conditions like diabetes or obesity can increase the risk for high blood pressure. Not getting enough regular physical activity is a significant contributing factor.
Here are some of the things that can raise your blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association:
  • Over-the-counter nasal decongestants
  • Salt
  • Alcohol
  • Being overweight
  • Sitting

How can high blood pressure affect pregnancy?

For women with preexisting high blood pressure, they need to talk with their doctor about ways to control their blood pressure during pregnancy. Additionally, some women may develop a high blood pressure during or after pregnancy. The mother’s blood pressure can affect the pregnancy, and can contribute to preeclampsia – which affects organs and could potentially be life-threatening. It’s important for pregnant women to regularly see their health care provider during their pregnancy to monitor their blood pressure.

How to lower blood pressure

Talk to your health care provider about your blood pressure. They will be able to recommend a treatment plan if your blood pressure is elevated or too high. Treatment may involve a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.
Additionally, the American Heart Association recommends the following lifestyle changes to help your overall health, including your blood pressure:
  • Eat a balanced diet that is lower in salt 
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Maintain a healthy weight 
  • Manage stress 
  • Regular physical activity
  • Stop smoking 
  • Take medications as prescribed 
Talk with your health care provider about your blood pressure, as well as your health history, any medications you take and your lifestyle. They can recommend any necessary changes or treatment plans to follow.

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