What Is Average Blood Pressure by Age?

A Health Measure That Trends Upward

Average blood pressure differs by sex and tends to rise with age. It is not the same as “normal” blood pressure guidelines that are used to diagnose hypertension (high blood pressure). To put average blood pressure by age in context, it’s important to know how it affects your health, and how it is measured.

What Blood Pressure Is

Blood pressure measures the force exerted against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood throughout your body. 

As you age, your blood vessels tend to become stiffer and plaque can build up in them, which can raise your blood pressure. This trend can lead to many other health problems if your blood pressure becomes too high, including heart disease, strokes, kidney disease, and problems with your eyes.

High blood pressure has been on the rise in recent years, following a period of decline earlier in the 21st Century.

Older peson has blood pressure taken
Blend Images / JGI/Tom Grill / Getty Images

How Blood Pressure Is Measured

A reading is expressed as two numbers, with millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) as the unit of measure. The top number is your systolic pressure, which occurs in your arteries when your heart is beating. The bottom number is diastolic pressure, which occurs between heartbeats. A device with a cuff is placed on your arm to get the reading.

More attention tends to be given to the top reading, as systolic blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over the age of 50. Still, both readings are used in making a diagnosis.

Average by Age in Adults

The worldwide mean average blood pressure in 2015 was 127/79 mm Hg in men and 122/77 mm Hg in women, according to a study analysis published in Lancet. 

When researchers for the National Center for Health Statistics looked at mean blood pressure in U.S. adults between 2001 and 2008, the average reading was 122/71 mm Hg. The breakout was 124/72 mm Hg for men, and 121/70 mm Hg in women. It rose by age and was significantly higher in Black people.

They found the following breakdown by age, sex, and race or ethnicity:

Men’s blood pressure:

  • 18–39 years: 119/70 mm Hg
  • 40–59 years: 124/77 mm Hg
  • 60 years and over: 133/69 mm Hg

Women’s blood pressure:

  • 18–39 years: 110/68 mm Hg
  • 40–59 years: 122/74 mm Hg
  • 60 years and over: 139/68 mm Hg

Blood pressure by race/ethnicity:

  • White: 122/71 mm Hg
  • Black:127/73 mm Hg
  • Mexican American: 123/70 mm Hg

Normal Blood Pressure for Adults

However, normal blood pressure is the measure that your doctor will use to diagnose whether or not you are in the healthy range. For adults, a normal reading is less than 120/80 mm Hg, according to the American Heart Association.

High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is defined as having a systolic pressure of 130 mm Hg or higher, or a diastolic pressure of 80 mm Hg or higher, most of the time.

Normal Blood Pressure for Children

Normal ranges vary in children, by age. The University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital providers this chart:

Normal Blood Pressure for Children
Age Systolic Diastolic
Newborns up to 1 month 60–90 mm Hg  20–60 mm Hg
Infant 87–105 mm Hg 53–66 mm Hg
Toddler 95–105 mm Hg 53–66 mm Hg
Preschooler 95–110 mm Hg 56–70 mm Hg
School-aged child 97–112 mm Hg 57–71 mm Hg
Adolescent 112–128 mm Hg 66–80 mm Hg

Yet what is considered heathy for your child also varies by height, age, and sex. Baylor College of Medicine provides a calculator for determining whether your child’s blood pressure reading falls into a healthy range.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure may not be average, but it certainly is common, particularly among older people.

Prevalence

As of 2018, 45% of U.S. adults had high blood pressure, including 51% of men and 40% of women. That included 22% of adults aged 18–39, 55% of adults aged 40–59, and 75% of those aged 60 and over.

High blood pressure is becoming more common in the U.S., erasing progress made earlier in the decade. Prevalence decreased from 47% in the 1999–2000 period to 42% in 2013–2014, and then rose to 45% in 2017–2018.

The condition is found most often in Black adults in the U.S. (57%), followed by white and Hispanic adults (both at 44%).

Stages

High blood pressure for adults is divided into stages, with each successive stage posing a greater risk to your health.

Stages of High Blood Pressure
Stage Systolic Diastolic
Elevated 120-129 mm Hg Less than 80
Stage 1 hypertension 130-139 mm Hg 80-89 mm Hg
Stage 2 hypertension Consistently 140/90 mm Hg or higher  
Hypertensive crisis 180 mm Hg and up 120 mm Hg and up

Risks and Treatments

A consistent rise in your blood pressure over time is also accompanied by an escalating level of health risk. Your healthcare provider will respond accordingly: 

  • Elevated: You are likely to develop hypertension unless you take steps, under your healthcare provider’s guidance, to control it. These may include lifestyle changes, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, getting more exercise, quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol, reducing stress, and getting to a healthy weight.
  • Stage 1 hypertension: Your healthcare provider probably will urge you to make lifestyle changes. Medication could be added as well, depending on your risk for related cardiovascular disease such as heart attack or stroke.
  • Stage 2 hypertension: This will likely prompt your healthcare provider to prescribe both medication and lifestyle changes in order to reverse the trend.
  • Hypertensive crisis: It is time to seek medical attention right away if your blood pressure is this high. You could be experiencing a heart attack, stroke, or something else that can damage your organs or threaten your life.

When to Call Your Doctor

A hypertensive crisis, where your blood pressure is over 180/120 mm Hg, requires immediate attention from your healthcare provider. Call 911 if you are also experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, back pain, shortness of breath, difficulty speaking, a change in vision, weakness or numbness.

A Word From Verywell

It’s good to know where you fall in terms of average blood pressure for your age, but even better to know how your readings compare to normal blood pressure. If you are above normal, now is the time to connect with your healthcare provider and follow their guidance for getting to a healthy reading.

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Article Sources
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