What Is Average Blood Pressure by Age?

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 Is Blood Pressure?

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, you're at a greater risk for 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

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.

Blood Pressure by Age
  Men  Women
18-39 years 119/70 mm Hg 110/68 mm Hg
40-59 years 124/77 mm Hg 122/74 mm Hg
60+ years 133/69 mm Hg 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 provides this chart:

Normal Blood Pressure for Children
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 healthy 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 to 39, 55% of adults aged 40 to 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 United States (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
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 health care provider will respond accordingly: 

  • Elevated: You are likely to develop hypertension unless you take steps, under your health care 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 health care 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 health care 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 health care 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.

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.

How to Take Your Blood Pressure

A specific set of techniques and procedures have been developed for obtaining the most accurate blood pressure readings possible. Whether you're taking your blood pressure yourself at home or a health care professional is taking your blood pressure at their office, it's important to completely follow the guidelines below.

When to Measure

The American Heart Association says that your blood pressure should be measured under controlled circumstances to get a truly accurate reading. You should be sitting in a chair with back support and with your feet on the floor.

Choose the Proper Cuff Size

If you are significantly above or below "average" height or weight, then the doctor or nurse should probably not be using the cuff that is already in the room. The "default" cuff that is usually kept in the examining room is meant to be used for average-sized people, and will not produce an accurate reading if you are larger or smaller than average.

The official guidelines specify the following cuff sizes:

  • Arm circumference 22 to 26 cm, 'small adult' cuff, 12 x 22 cm
  • Arm circumference 27 to 34 cm, 'adult' cuff: 16 x 30 cm
  • Arm circumference 35 to 44 cm, 'large adult' cuff: 16 x 36 cm
  • Arm circumference 45 to 52 cm, 'adult thigh' cuff: 16 x 42

Proper Positioning

The arm being used should be relaxed, uncovered, and supported at the level of the heart. Only the part of the arm where the blood pressure cuff is fastened needs to be at the heart level, not the entire arm.

Take Multiple Readings

One blood pressure reading is not enough to get an accurate measurement. Things like temperature and stress can change blood pressure, so more than one reading allows the ability to correct for these variations. More than one reading should be taken during doctor's visits, too. Ideally once at the beginning of your visit and once at the end.

Choosing a Blood Pressure Monitor

If you're planning to take your blood pressure at home, it's important to have a reliable blood pressure monitor. When selecting a blood pressure monitor, consider the following:

  • Fit: The American Heart Association recommends an automatic, cuff-style, bicep (upper-arm) monitor. To ensure a proper fit, measure around your upper arm and choose a monitor that comes with the correct size cuff. 
  • Number of People: If you are looking for a multi-user gadget, make sure to choose one accordingly, taking into consideration everyone's size and situation.
  • Features: Blood pressure monitors have various levels of tech offerings, including Bluetooth, app connectivity, and ample storage for readings. If you don't think you'll benefit from these extra features, you are better off sticking with something that is efficient and easy to use, and more affordable. 
  • Budget: High-quality blood pressure monitors vary dramatically in price, from around $25 to well over $100. Keep in mind that a good monitor is a great investment and that you will be using it daily for several years. 
  • Other Considerations: The AHA notes that when selecting a blood pressure monitor for a senior, pregnant woman, or child, to make sure it is validated for these conditions.

If you need help selecting an at-home device, check out these blood pressure monitors, which were vetted by the Verywell team based on the above criteria.

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 health care provider and follow their guidance for getting to a healthy reading.

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Article Sources
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