Many people ask me about the blood pressure chart. There’s 5 ranges on the chart with different names and numbers for the two kinds of blood pressure, systolic and diastolic. So it can get a little confusing especially when you throw in the and, or, and/or. In addition, to complicate things even more, the chart was changed a few years ago in 2017. Therefore, if you knew the old chart and you haven’t brushed up on the new one, you don’t know the chart anymore. This is because there were drastic changes in 2017 which I’ll tell you about later in the blog post.
What is the blood pressure chart? The blood pressure chart has 5 different categories, normal, elevated, high blood pressure stage 1, high blood pressure stage 2 and hypertensive crisis. Yes, there’s a blood pressure range with the word crisis in it, and it can result in immediate, severe consequences.
This blog post will inform you about each category in detail. I’ll explain the numbers for each one and how you know what range your blood pressure is in. In addition, you’ll find out what actions you should take depending on your blood pressure number. This is extremely noteworthy, especially with the 5th range on the chart, which can be life threatening.
The 1st Category In The Blood Pressure Chart Is Normal Blood Pressure
The first blood pressure range is called Normal Blood Pressure. I wrote a blog post in this same website about normal blood pressure and why it’s not what everyone thinks it is. If you’re interested, you can check it out right here.
The normal category is a systolic number less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic number less than 80 mm Hg (the systolic number is the upper number in your reading and diastolic is the lower number). Which means that your blood pressure reading would have to be 119 mm Hg over 79 mm Hg or lower to fall into the normal blood pressure range (resource). The and between the numbers is important to note. It means that both numbers have to be less to be normal.
If your blood pressure results fall into this category, it means your blood pressure is doing great. Typically, a doctor will inform you that you should continue with heart healthy habits like eating the right foods, doing regular physical activity and avoiding any bad habits.
Make sure you don’t take these good results as a ticket to miss future physicals. Don’t miss your next doctor appointment and monitor your blood pressure at home regularly. If you don’t have a home monitor and thinking about getting one, check out the one I recommend in this blog post right here.
Elevated Blood Pressure
The next range on the blood pressure chart is elevated. This range has systolic numbers from 120-129 mm Hg and diastolic number less than 80 mm HG. If your numbers fall into this range you are likely to develop high blood pressure (resource). Please note that there is an and between the two numbers like with the normal range. If you take action now with the appropriate steps, you can stop your pressure from getting higher.
It’s crucial to do that because high blood pressure is something you really want to avoid. It can lead to more serious health issues like a heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Normally, your physician will tell you to make some minor lifestyle changes to get your readings back down to the normal range. Lifestyle changes can include a change in your daily nutrition, stopping any habits that have a negative affect on blood pressure and starting some type of every day exercise.
High Blood Pressure Stage 1
The 3rd blood pressure chart range is high blood pressure stage 1, also known as hypertension. 1st, let’s define high blood pressure. High blood pressure (HBP) is when your blood pressure, which is the force of your blood pushing against your blood vessel walls, is consistently too high. Just one reading alone doesn’t normally classify you as having HBP. It’s called the “silent killer” because there are typically no symptoms so you don’t know you have it. This makes it dangerous because it can lead to severe health problems.
This range has a high number from 130-139 mm Hg OR a lower number from 80-90 mm Hg (resource). Notice this time, there is an OR between the two numbers and not an AND. This means that just one of the numbers, not both can classify your pressure in this range. For example, if your blood pressure is 131/79, you’re in stage 1 because of the systolic number of 130 mm Hg.
In HBP stage 1, a doctor will likely suggest changes in your lifestyle and may consider blood pressure medicine based on your risk of cardiovascular disease. The following are those risks:
- Family history: If any of your close relatives have HBP or cardiovascular disease, your chances of getting it are higher.
- Age: High blood pressure becomes more common as you age due to blood vessel problems.
- Gender: Men are more likely to get HBP until age 64. Older than that and women are more likely to have blood pressure issues.
- Race: Certain racial backgrounds are more likely to have HBP than others.
- Obesity: Extra pounds add stress to your heart, circulatory system and blood pressure.
- Cholesterol: Most people with HBP have high cholesterol.
- Stress, Alcohol or Smoking: Too much of any of these can raise your blood pressure.
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High Blood Pressure Stage 2
The next range on the blood pressure chart is high blood pressure stage 2, which is the more serious high blood pressure range. For your blood pressure to fall into this range the systolic number is 140 or higher OR the diastolic number from 90 or higher. Notice again the word OR in between the two numbers. This means that only one of the numbers only can classify your blood pressure in this range. Therefore, if your BP is 135/92, you’re in stage 2 because of the diastolic number of 92 mm Hg.
If your BP is in stage 2, doctors are likely to prescribe both lifestyle changes and medication. Notice that in Stage 1, a doctor may prescribe medication but in Stage 2 they are likely to prescribe it. Some of the common blood pressure medications are (resource):
- Beta-blockers: They help to reduce your heart rate and lessen the amount of blood being pumped.
- Ace inhibitors: They help the blood vessels expand which eases the flow of the blood.
- Diuretics: Diuretics helps get rid of excess fluid and sodium.
- Alpha blockers: They help the blood flow easier by relaxing the artery walls.
- Calcium channel blockers: Calcium channel blockers open up your arteries and slow down your heart.
- Angiotensin ll receptor blockers: Block the effects of angiotensin which opens up the arteries.
- Alpha-2 receptor agonists: They decrease activity in the nervous system to help lower blood pressure.
The 5th range on the blood pressure chart is Hypertensive Crisis. In this range the systolic number is higher than 180 AND/OR the diastolic number is higher than 120 (resource). This time there is an AND/OR in between the two numbers. This means that either number or both can classify you in this range. Hypertensive crisis requires medical attention so contact your doctor immediately if you don’t have any other symptoms.
If you have these numbers AND, you’re experiencing chest pain, back pain, shortness of breath, numbness, weakness, difficulty speaking or change of vision call 911 immediately. Because of the symptoms you’re not going to call your doctor first. The consequences of uncontrolled blood pressure in this range can be severe and include all the following:
- Loss of consciousness
- Memory loss
- Heart attack
- Damage to the eyes and kidneys
- Loss of kidney function
- Aortic dissection
- Pulmonary edema
Hypertensive Crisis is not to be taken mildly. Do not wait to see if your pressure comes down. I’ll say it again, if your readings indicate hypertensive crisis and you are experiencing one of the above symptoms, PLEASE call 911 immediately. It is always to be better safe than sorry. As you can see, knowing your blood pressure chart and the different ranges are very important.
Low Blood Pressure Chart
There is no official low blood pressure chart or category. The American Heart Association (resource) says there is no specific number for day to day blood pressure to be considered too low, as long as there are no symptoms present. Most healthcare professionals consider low blood pressure too low if the systolic number is less than 90 mm Hg and the diastolic number is less than 60 mm Hg. The following are symptoms that would cause low blood pressure to be considered dangerous:
- Dizziness: When you have the feeling of being unbalanced.
- Nausea: Having the urge to vomit.
- Fainting: You temporarily lose consciousness.
- Dehydration: When your body is low on fluids. It’s not always caused by not drinking enough drinking water. Other causes can be vomiting, medications, severe diarrhea and strenuous activity.
- Lack of concentration: You find it hard to focus.
- Blurred vision: Your eyes cannot focus, and you can’t see clearly.
- Pale, cold, clammy skin: Your skin appears whiter than normal or feels wet or cool.
- Rapid, shallow breathing: Your breathing rate is higher than normal.
- Fatigue: You have a lack of energy to do anything physical.
- Depression: Feeling down or loss of interest in participating in daily events.
If you have low blood pressure and any of the above symptoms, you should go to the hospital. As with high blood pressure, the consequences can be severe. It’s possible you can go into shock which can be fatal. There’s also a risk of having a heart attack, stroke or kidney failure.
If you feel your blood pressure is too low but you don’t have any symptoms, you should contact your doctor and be guided by their advice. It’s not a good idea to wait until your next physical date, especially if it’s weeks or months away.
The New 2017 Blood Pressure Guidelines Changed The Blood Pressure Chart
In 2017, new blood pressure guidelines were released that replaced the older guidelines from 2003. The newer guidelines were developed by the American Heart Association, The American College of Cardiology and 9 other organizations in the health profession. They were written by health experts and scientists who reviewed more than 900 published studies. The new guidelines went through a review and approval process.
Overnight, with the release of the new guidelines, people who were considered to have high blood pressure increased dramatically (resource). People who weren’t considered as having HBP now had it. Many people think a lot of this has to do with big corporations profiting more off of people by selling more medication. But the people who helped developed the new guidelines say when you look into the numbers, not many more people will be on medication than before. They say the new guidelines are meant to detect and treat HBP before it gets severe.
Many of the Cardiologists and physicians I interviewed were happy with the new guidelines. They agreed that cardiovascular disease and HBP will be detected sooner and cause the patient less problems over time.
Changes To The Blood Pressure Chart
- With the older guidelines, normal blood pressure was under 140/90. Now, normal blood pressure is under 120/80.
- The older guidelines classified 140/90 as HBP stage 1 hypertension. With the new guidelines, this is now considered HBP stage 2 hypertension.
- Under the old guidelines, HBP was 140/90 and higher. Now, HBP is 130 and higher for systolic blood pressure or 80 and higher for diastolic blood pressure.
- The older guidelines had a category titled prehypertension. The new guidelines did away with that classification. Now, people who used to be considered prehypertension fall into either elevated or HBP stage 1.
In addition, by lowering the classification of HBP, there will be earlier intervention to help prevent more complications that are associated with HBP. The new guidelines also stress the importance of the techniques used to measure blood pressure. Using proper technique and readings based on the average of 2-3 readings on at least 2 different occasions. The new guidelines also stress the importance of home monitoring and proper technique to avoid false readings.
How Blood Pressure Is Recorded
To better understand the blood pressure chart and the 5 different categories you may have wondered what the numbers mean and how they’re recorded. The heart pumps blood into large blood vessels every time it beats. It does this to supply blood to all parts and organs of your body. When the blood is pumped into the blood vessels, it puts pressure on the walls of the vessels. That pressure is indicated by taking your blood pressure (resource).
Blood pressure is recorded in 2 ways resulting in 2 numbers. The higher number and the lower number. The first number or higher number is your Systolic Blood Pressure. This number indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats. The second number or lower number is your Diastolic Blood Pressure. This number indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
These higher and lower numbers are measured in the abbreviation mm Hg. The abbreviation mmHg means millimeters of mercury. The 1st accurate blood pressure gauges used mercury. Today, mercury is still used as the standard unit of measurement for blood pressure. So someone who has a blood pressure reading of 120/80 mm Hg, has a systolic blood pressure of 120 mm Hg and a Diastolic blood pressure of 80 mm Hg.
Lifestyle Changes Recommended To Lower Blood Pressure
If your readings are above the normal range on the blood pressure chart you’ve read above that doctors may recommend or prescribe lifestyle changes. Here’s 3 ways you can lower your blood pressure.
(1) A Change In Your Nutrition
Eat foods with less sugar, the most dangerous are the excess amounts of added sugars like processed corn syrup. Sugar can raise your blood pressure in a number of different ways. So avoid foods loaded with sugar like soda, donuts and candy (resource).
A study showed that drinking just 24 ounces of soda caused a jump in blood pressure in the hours that followed. When it comes to lowering blood pressure the only white crystal most people hear about is salt. Many people are saying that it’s time to focus our attention on the other white crystal which is sugar (resource).
While lowering your sodium is important to lowering High Blood Pressure you should still consume no more than 1,500mg of sodium a day. If you’re an athlete or have a job where you sweat all day long, then your sodium intake might be higher.
(2) Physical Activity
Get off your favorite television watching seat and enjoy regular physical activity every day. Do your best and try to get about 20-30 minutes of activity a day. Physical activity will help keep your weight healthy, strengthen your muscles and improve your heart. All this will help keep your readings lower on the blood pressure chart. Physical activities can Include:
- Walks: Take a Nice Leisurely Stroll In The Park or Window Shop At The Mall. Or you can walk in your neighborhood. The best part of walking is it can be done almost anywhere and doesn’t cost you anything.
- Join a fitness center: Some places offer free physical trainers in the beginning to get you started.
- Yoga: Yoga has so many benefits, and there are so many different kinds to enjoy. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what kind of shape you’re in, there’s a yoga to fit your needs.
- Jogging: Just like walking, it can be done almost anywhere.
- High or Low Intensity Cardio: If you’re up to it, high intensity training will get you in great shape. If not, stick with a lower intensity cardio.
(3) Manage Stress
Manage your stress with relaxation techniques. Stress can raise your BP in multiple ways. Stress hormones, like cortisol, get released and speed up your heart raising blood pressure. Stress, especially long-term, can lead to habits that are bad for your overall health and blood pressure. The following are some relaxation techniques that you can use to relax:
- Meditation: This is a great way to clear your mind.
- Massages: You can even use self-massages to your forehead, temple and neck areas.
- Exercise: Like the ones listed above, exercise can help relieve your stress.
- Proper Sleep: Not getting enough sleep makes it harder to relax.
Improving your sleep has many benefits beyond lowering blood pressure (resource). Follow these tips to improve your sleep habits:
- Keep the room temperature where you sleep at a cooler temperature. The national sleep foundation recommends the room temperature between 60 and 67 degrees.
- Try To Keep a consistent sleep schedule even on your days off
- Aim to go to sleep and wake up around the same times every day
- Keep your room dark, especially if your sleep schedule wakes you up after sunrise and as quiet as possible
- And this is a tough one but avoid tv, computer or phone screen time right before bedtime. This can stimulate brain activity and affect sleep quality.
What is the target blood pressure chart? Your target blood pressure would be the normal blood pressure category. It’s the first category on the blood pressure chart. Normal blood pressure has a systolic blood pressure number less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic blood pressure number less than 80 mm Hg.
Which is the most important number in blood pressure? Research shows both numbers, systolic and diastolic, are equally important for diagnosing high blood pressure. However, if you are over 50 years old, the systolic number receives more attention as a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Managing High Blood Pressure Is A Commitment
If your readings are high on the Blood Pressure Chart it’s vital you listen to your doctor. Remember, you are a part of your healthcare team. You and your doctor are partners. Educate yourself about high blood pressure and learn how to monitor your blood pressure at home. Keep a record of your readings, make all your doctor visits and follow the lifestyle heart healthy habits explained in this article. If you are interested in any home blood pressure products, you can check out the affordable ones I recommend in this same website on the product page. Armed with this information, you can commit to living heart healthy!
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If you found this Blood Pressure topic interesting check out these related blood pressure articles found in this site:
- High Blood Pressure Stage 1 – The 1st High BP Range
- High Blood Pressure Stage 2 – The MORE SERIOUS High BP Range
- Hypertensive Crisis – You’re CALLING 911 Or A Doctor!