Normal Blood Pressure – Surprisingly It’s NOT 120 Over 80

normal blood pressure

Something recently released a few years ago altered many things about blood pressure. One of the changes included what a Normal Blood Pressure reading is. Surprisingly it’s not 120 over 80 like everyone thinks. You’re going to be totally surprised when you find out what blood pressure range 120 over 80 really is.

In November 2017 the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association issued new guidelines that redefined blood pressure readings. A whole heck of a lot of people (about 31 million) had their blood pressure diagnosis changed overnight. People who had normal blood pressure were now considered to have high blood pressure and normal blood pressure was no longer 120 over 80.

Many of the public have good reason to believe this all has to do with “big pharma” and putting people on more medication. But the powers that be claim that’s not what this is about. They say when you look at the numbers not many more people will actually be advised to take medications than before. in addition, the new numbers are meant to detect blood pressure problems and cardiovascular disease sooner.

Many of the primary care physicians and Cardiologists in the Healthcare facility where I work, interviewed and conferred with were happy with these stricter measures. They liked that the new guidelines are accompanied by solid research, logistical guidance, and useful management strategies.

What Normal Blood Pressure Is Today

What is normal blood pressure? Normal blood pressure is a systolic number less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic number less than 80 mm Hg. Which means that your blood pressure reading would have to be 119 over 79 or lower to fall into the normal blood pressure range. (resource)

If your Blood Pressure readings fall into this category, great for you and stick with heart-healthy habits like following a balanced diet and getting regular exercise. Keep going for regular physicals and monitor your blood pressure to make sure it stays normal.

normal blood pressure

What Blood Pressure Range Is 120 over 80 mm Hg?

Many of you might be guessing it’s the next category above normal which is elevated blood pressure. That makes total sense and it’s exactly what I would surmise. But guess what, 120 over 80 is not even considered elevated blood pressure! An elevated blood pressure reading is a systolic number between 120-129 and a diastolic number less then 80.

normal blood pressure

Therefore, if 120 over 80 mm Hg is not considered normal or elevated blood pressure, what can it be? It couldn’t be high blood pressure. Maybe the new guidelines introduced another category? Well, here’s the answer for you. A reading of 120 over 80 mm Hg falls into the next category above elevated which is high blood pressure Stage 1! This would be due to the diastolic number of 80 falling into the 80-89 range of high blood pressure stage 1. See the blood pressure chart below.

normal blood pressure

So if prior to reading this article you thought 120 over 80 mm Hg was normal, surprise surprise. According to the new guidelines 120 over 80 is considered to be High Blood Pressure (aka Hypertension) Stage 1! ( resource) Bear in mind that to be considered to have high blood pressure your readings need to be consistently in that range. Also, only a doctor can give you a diagnosis of high blood pressure.

If you haven’t been visiting a doctor because of health plan problems, you may want to check out a health plan service that can find you an affordable plan right for you. To see the one I recommend, visit the blog post I wrote about it right here.

New Blood Pressure Guidelines 2017: Highlights & How It’s Changed Normal Blood Pressure

The new 2017 blood pressure guidelines replaced the Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure issued in 2003 and overseen by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

The new blood pressure guidelines were developed by the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology and 9 other health professional organizations. The new guidelines were written by a group of 21 scientists and health experts who reviewed more than 900 published studies. The guidelines underwent a careful systematic review and approval process.

Why has it been 14 years since the older guidelines? Blood pressure guidelines are not updated on a regular schedule. There’s a reason behind it. Instead, they are changed when sufficient new evidence suggests the old guidelines weren’t accurate or relevant anymore.

New Blood Pressure Guidelines Highlights

  • Before the new guidelines Normal Blood Pressure used to be UNDER 140/90. Normal Blood Pressure Is now UNDER 120/80.
  • Previous guidelines classified 140/90 mm Hg as High Blood Pressure Stage 1 hypertension. This level is now classified as High Blood Pressure Stage 2 hypertension.
  • High blood pressure is now defined as readings of 130 mm Hg and higher for the systolic blood pressure measurement or readings of 80 and higher for the diastolic measurement. That is a change from the old definition of 140/90 and higher (resource).
  • The new guidelines eliminate the category of prehypertension, which was used for blood pressures with a higher number (systolic) between 120-139 mm Hg or a lower number (diastolic) between 80-89 mm Hg. People with those readings will now be classified as having either Elevated (120-129 and less than 80) or High Blood Pressure Stage I  (130-139 or 80-89).
  • By lowering the definition of high blood pressure, the guidelines recommend earlier intervention to prevent further increases in blood pressure and the complications of High Blood Pressure.
  • The new blood pressure guidelines stress the importance of using proper technique to measure blood pressure. Blood pressure levels should be based on an average of two to three readings on at least two different occasions, the authors in the blood pressure report said.

normal blood pressure

Instant Overnight Blood Pressure Category Classifications

If you didn’t have high blood pressure before there’s a good chance you do now. Instead of 32% of U.S. adults having high blood pressure with the previous definition, the new guidelines will result in nearly half of the U.S. adult population (46 percent) having high blood pressure.

The group of people impacted the most from the new guidelines is expected to be greatest among younger people. The prevalence of high blood pressure is expected to triple among men under age 45, and double among women under 45 according to the new report.

The report states that while more people will be diagnosed with high blood pressure and counseled about lifestyle changes, there will only be a small increase in those who will be prescribed medication.

More New Blood Pressure Guidelines Changes

  • Only prescribing medication for High Blood Pressure Stage I hypertension if a patient has already had a cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke, or is at high risk of heart attack or stroke based on age, the presence of diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease or calculation of atherosclerotic risk (using the same risk calculator used in evaluating high cholesterol).
  • Recognizing that many people will need two or more types of medications to control their blood pressure. In addition, people may take their pills more consistently if multiple medications are combined into a single pill.
  • Identifying socioeconomic status and psychosocial stress as risk factors for high blood pressure that should be considered in a patient’s plan of care.

The Increased Importance Of Home Blood Pressure Monitoring 

The new blood pressure guidelines also encourage additional monitoring (resource). You can do this by checking it on your own at home with a home blood pressure monitor or using a wearable digital monitor that continually takes blood pressure readings as you go about your life. The added monitoring can help reduce masked hypertension (when the blood pressure is normal in the doctor office, but high the rest of the time) or white coat high blood pressure (when the blood pressure is high in the doctor office, but normal the rest of the time).

There are clear, helpful directions for setting patients up with a home blood pressure monitor. This includes a recommendation to give people specific instructions on when not to check blood pressure. If you are interested in checking out some home blood pressure monitors or sphygmomanometers you can read my blog post in this same website about which ones I recommend.

normal blood pressure

This leads me to the next section of my article which covers the right way to take your blood pressure at home

Home Normal Blood Pressure Monitoring Tips

If you are checking your blood pressure at home, you want to make sure the normal blood pressure readings you are taking are accurate. This way they can help you and your doctor monitor your blood pressure the best way possible. Because of this these extremely important tips can help prevent false readings.

  • Make sure your cuff size is right for the size of your arm. Measure your arm using a cloth tape measure. Place it on your upper arm between your elbow and shoulder. Evenly wrap the tape around the circumference of your upper arm. The tape should be secure but not too loose or too tight. Compare your measurement to the cuff size range of your monitor.
  • Before taking your blood pressure at home don’t smoke or drink caffeinated beverages or exercise within 30 minutes before taking your blood pressure.
  • Make sure you have 5 minutes of quiet rest before measuring and empty your bladder.
  • Don’t take blood pressure measurements over clothes.
  • It’s best to sit in an upright position, back straight and supported like in a dinning room chair and not on a sofa. Your feet should be flat on the floor, but your legs should not be crossed.
  • Your arm should be supported by a flat surface such as a table or arm rest with your upper arm at heart level. Place the cuff directly above the bend of the elbow.
  • It’s important to take your blood pressure readings the same time every day such as morning or night and take your readings daily.
  • Every time you take your blood pressure readings, take 2 or 3 of them one minute apart and record all your results.
  • If your blood pressure monitor has a built-in memory to store your readings you can take it with you to your doctor appointments.

There are times when a wrist monitor must be used. The most common reason is the upper arm is too big for traditional cuffs, or there’s a mobility problem. If you find you need a wrist monitor you can check my recommendation in this same website by clicking here.

Features To Look For In A Quality Home Blood Pressure Monitor

  • Clinical-grade technology and accuracy: When it comes to something as serious as blood pressure, the accuracy of your blood pressure readings are extremely important.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: It’s nice to have a home monitor that connects to an app downloaded on your smartphone. You can send your blood pressure readings to the app and have them with you when you visit the doctor. It’s easier than bringing the monitor or a written log.
  • Speed and comfort: The length of time it takes a monitor to read your blood pressure makes a difference. A tight cuff can feel uncomfortable. Therefore the quicker the better. In addition, having the right size cuff makes the inflation process feel better and more important, take accurate readings.
  • Users: Most monitors can store readings for 2 users. This is a nice feature to have if more than one family member needs to log their readings.
  • Power Supply: Some monitors come with batteries and an ac adaptor. It’s nice to have the adaptor so your monitor can be plugged into an electrical socket in case your batteries run out of charge.
  • Display screen: A larger screen with bigger size numbers makes it easier to see your blood pressure numbers. In addition, the background color should be a sharp contrast to the color of the numbers.
  • Accessories: It’s nice when a home monitor comes with extras that are not normally included. Such items can include a carry bag for travel, extra arm cuffs.

To keep your blood pressure from increasing above normal blood pressure the following are risk factors that you need to be aware of.

High Blood Pressure Risk Factors

They are 2 kinds of risk factors. 1st are the risk factors you cannot change but should be aware of. The following are risk factors related to who you are (resource):

  • Age: You are more likely to get high blood pressure as you get older. As you age, your blood vessels gradually lose some of their elasticity, which can contribute to increased blood pressure.
  • Family History: If your parents or other close relatives have high blood pressure, there’s an increased chance that you can get it too.
  • Gender: Up to age 64, men are more likely to get high blood pressure than women are. At age 65 and older, women are more likely to get high blood pressure.
  • Race: African-Americans are more likely to develop high blood pressure than any other racial background in the United States.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease: High Blood Pressure may occur as a result of kidney disease. And, having HBP may also cause further kidney damage.

The 2nd kind of risk factors are Modifiable Risk Factors. Things you can change to help lower blood pressure:

Unhealthy Diet: Good nutrition from a variety of sources is critical for your health. A diet too high in calories, saturated and trans fat and sugar carry an additional risk of high blood pressure. Making healthy food choices can actually help lower blood pressure.

Lack of physical activity: Not getting enough physical activity increases your risk of getting high blood pressure. Physical activity is great for your heart and circulatory system in general and blood pressure is no exception. Aim to get about 20-30 minutes a day.

Being Overweight or Obese: Excess weight puts an extra strain on your heart and circulatory system that can cause serious health problems. It also increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Excess Alcohol: Regular, heavy use of alcohol can cause many health problems, including heart failure, stroke and an irregular heartbeat. It can cause your blood pressure to increase dramatically and can also increase your risk of cancer, obesity, suicide and accidents.

High Cholesterol: More than half of the people with High Blood Pressure also have high cholesterol.

Smoking and Tobacco: Using tobacco can cause your blood pressure to temporarily increase and can contribute to damaged arteries.

Lack Of Sleep and Sleep Apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea may increase risk of developing High Blood Pressure and is common in people with resistant hypertension.

Stress: Too much stress may contribute to increased blood pressure. Also, too much stress can encourage behaviors that increase blood pressure, like poor diet, physical inactivity, using tobacco, illegal drugs or drinking alcohol more than usual.

normal blood pressure

Normal Blood Pressure Nutrition Tips

There are several ways to lower blood pressure but nutrition tops my list. Follow these Nutrition tips to keep yourself in the Normal Blood Pressure Range.

Try to maintain the potassium to sodium ratio of 4:1 which is extremely important to help lower your blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease (resource).

The 4:1 ratio is important because your kidneys help to control your blood pressure by controlling the amount of fluid stored in your body. Generally, the more fluid the higher your blood pressure. Your kidneys do this by filtering your blood and taking out any extra fluid. This process uses a delicate balance of sodium and potassium to pull out the excess water.

The daily recommended amount of potassium is 4,700 mg. and your sodium intake should be no more than 1,500 mg. This doesn’t apply to highly active people like competitive athletes or workers exposed to the heat sweating all day. These people are going to require a higher sodium intake. The following foods are high in potassium:

  1. Sweet Potatoes
  2. Leafy Greens
  3. Dried Apricots
  4. Beans
  5. Bananas
  6. Avocado

Magnesium causes a calming effect on your body including arteries and veins which will help prevent them from constricting which can raise systolic blood pressure. The blood pressure formula I recommend contains magnesium as one of its main ingredients. If you like, check out my recommendation in this same website by clicking here. Top 5 Foods High In Magnesium are:

  1. Spinach
  2. Swiss Chard
  3. Dark Chocolate
  4. Pumpkin Seeds
  5. Almonds

Limit saturated and trans fats because they can increase your cholesterol. Foods high in these fats include fatty red meats, lamb, pork, chicken with skin, butter, cheese and other dairy products made from whole milk.

Eat More Of These Foods:

  • Fruits like apples, avocados, kiwi, lemons and blueberries.
  • Vegetables like spinach, broccoli, carrots and sweet potatoes.
  • Fish and skinless chicken. The skin on the chicken contains a lot of fat so take it off prior to cooking. Some of the best fish are wild caught salmon, cod, tuna and sardines.
  • The next food I’m completely nuts about which are, you guessed it, nuts. You can’t go wrong with almonds, walnuts, pecans or all natural peanut butter with nothing added.
  • Whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal.

Stress and Anxiety: It Can Make Your Blood Pressure Higher Than Normal

The “fight or flight” response is a valuable response when we are faced with an immediate, short-term threat that we can handle by fighting or fleeing. However, the shot of adrenaline and cortisol were designed to help our ancestors fight off situations like encountering a wild animal in the woods. Unfortunately, our modern world contains many stressful events that we can’t handle with those short-term options. Chronic (constant) stress causes our bodies to go into high gear on and off for days, weeks or months at a time.

This constant stress can result in the following mental and emotional symptoms:

  • Irrational Anger
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Panic or Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings Of Despair and Impending Doom

There’s no direct proof that this kind of stress causes long-term high blood pressure although it’s still being studied and does create spikes in BP (resource). But by the way some people react to stress, in unhealthy ways, can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Some unhealthy behaviors that are linked to not having normal blood pressure include:

  • Excess alcohol
  • Illegal drugs
  • Eating unhealthy
  • Smoking
  • Skipping exercise

Commit to Managing Your Normal Blood Pressure

Remember you are part of your healthcare team! YOU, your doctor and the rest of the healthcare team at your healthcare facility are partners. If you like to maintain a Normal Blood Pressure learn how to monitor your blood pressure at home and educate yourself about High Blood Pressure. Armed with this knowledge YOU CAN COMMIT TO LIVING HEALTHY! 

Related Questions

My normal blood pressure is low. What is low blood pressure? The American Heart Association says there is no specific number at which blood pressure is considered too low, as long as none of the symptoms of trouble are present. Most experts define low blood pressure as a systolic number less than 90 mm Hg and a diastolic pressure less than 60 mm Hg.

My blood pressure is normal. What is a normal pulse rate? A normal resting heart rate can range anywhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Active people like athletes or runners often have a lower resting heart rate, as low as 40. This is because their heart muscle is in better condition and doesn’t need to work as hard to maintain a steady beat.

What is normal blood pressure during pregnancy? The American Heart Association guidelines apply to all adults and don’t specifically address blood pressure targets during pregnancy. Therefore, normal blood pressure during pregnancy is a systolic pressure less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic pressure less than 80 mm Hg.

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Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on blood pressure topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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