What Is Average Blood Pressure by Age?

Blood pressure (BP) measures the force pressed against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood through your body. 

Average blood pressure differs by sex and tends to rise with age. It's important to know how blood pressure affects your health.

This article will cover how doctors differentiate between "normal" blood pressure and hypertension (high blood pressure). It will also discuss the health risks involved with hypertension, how you can monitor your blood pressure, and when you should call your doctor.

What Do Blood Pressure Numbers Mean?

Blood pressure readings are composed of two numbers—for example, 120/80 mm Hg.

The top number (systolic pressure) measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The bottom number (diastolic pressure) measures the pressure in your arteries between each heart beat.

The standard unit of measure, mm Hg, stands for "millimeters of mercury." Mercury pressure gauges have been replaced with electronic pressure gauges, but the abbreviation is still used.

Normal Blood Pressure for Children

Normal BP 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

What is considered healthy for your child also varies by height, age, and sex. You can use Baylor College of Medicine's calculator to see if your child’s blood pressure reading is in a healthy range.

Normal Blood Pressure for Adults

According to the American Heart Association, normal blood pressure for adults (ages 20 and older) is less than 120/80 mm Hg.

On the other hand, 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.

Average Blood Pressure by Age

As you get older, your blood vessels tend to become stiffer and plaque (a fatty material) can build up in them, which can raise your blood pressure. If your blood pressure becomes too high, you're at a greater risk for heart disease, strokes, and more.

In 2015, the average blood pressure worldwide 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 average 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.

The researchers 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

High Blood Pressure

As the population ages and life expectancy increases, high blood pressure is becoming more common.

Prevalence

In 1972, the National High Blood Pressure Education Program was launched by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The program educated more people about high blood pressure.

As more people became aware of their high blood pressure and took medicine for it, the rate of high blood pressure declined. In fact, the percentage of people with high blood pressure decreased from 47% in the 1999–2000 period to 42% in 2013–2014. However, the percentage rose again to 45% in 2017–2018.

One study found that in 2017-2018, only 58% of adults under the age of 40 were aware they had high blood pressure.

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.

Recap

Normal blood pressure for an adult is 120 over 80, but it is lower for children and adolescents. In 2018, almost half of all adults in the U.S. (45%) had blood pressure above normal levels. More men than women, and more Black and Latinx than White people have high blood pressure.

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors for hypertension, including:

  • Little or no exercise: People who do not exercise regularly are at a greater risk of hypertension and heart disease.
  • Unhealthy diet: Diets that are high in salt, sugar, saturated fat, and trans fat are linked to high blood pressure and increased risk to your cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels).
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese makes your heart work harder to move blood and oxygen through your body.
  • Tobacco exposure: Smoking tobacco or being exposed to secondhand smoke can damage arteries and raise blood pressure.
  • Binge drinking: Drinking too much regularly is associated with high blood pressure and other heart problems.
  • Family history: High blood pressure tends to run in families.
  • Age and sex: Men are more likely to have high blood pressure, but the risk increases for everyone with age.

Blood Pressure Stages

High blood pressure for adults is divided into stages. At each stage, there is a greater risk to your health. A hypertensive crisis, which is measured at 180/120, is a sharp increase of blood pressure that may cause a stroke.

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 140 mm Hg and up  90 mm Hg and up
Hypertensive crisis 180 mm Hg and up 120 mm Hg and up

Risks and Treatments

A consistent rise in your blood pressure over time comes with an increased risk to your health. Your healthcare provider is likely to respond in these ways: 

  • Elevated: You are likely to develop hypertension unless you take steps to control it. These may include lifestyle changes, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, getting more exercise, and quitting smoking.
  • Stage 1 hypertension: Your healthcare provider will probably recommend lifestyle changes. They may also prescribe medication, depending on your risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attack, or stroke.
  • Stage 2 hypertension: Your healthcare provider will likely prescribe both medication and lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure.
  • Hypertensive crisis: Seek medical attention right away if your blood pressure is this high. You could experience a heart attack, stroke, or something else that can damage your organs or threaten your life.

Hypertension Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Old Man

When to Call Your Doctor

A hypertensive crisis—defined as blood pressure above 180/120 mm Hg—requires immediate medical attention. 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.

Recap

There are several different stages of high blood pressure. As blood pressure rises, the negative impact on your health increases, too. A healthcare provider can recommend treatment for each stage, starting with diet and lifestyle changes and leading to medication options.

How Blood Pressure Is Measured

Blood pressure testing stations can be found in pharmacies, workplaces, and medical clinics. You can also buy a blood pressure monitor online or at your local pharmacy.

To measure blood pressure, a cuff attached to a monitor is placed on your arm. The cuff is then inflated with an air pump until its pressure stops blood flow from your brachial artery—the major artery found in your upper arm.

As the cuff deflates, the device measures the pressure when blood starts flowing again (systolic pressure). Once the cuff is completely deflated, the device gauges the lowest pressure between beats (diastolic pressure).

Typically, more attention is given to the systolic pressure reading, as systolic blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease in people over the age of 50. Still, both readings are used to make a diagnosis.

How to Take Your Blood Pressure

If you're taking your blood pressure at home, there are certain steps you can take to get the most accurate reading possible.

Getting Started

The goal is to measure your blood pressure at its most stable. Hence, it's good practice to rest for five minutes in a calm environment before getting started. The AHA also advises against smoking, exercising, or drinking caffeinated beverages within 30 minutes before taking your blood pressure.

Proper Cuff Size

Doctors often keep one default cuff in the examining room, which is generally meant to be used for people of "average" height and weight. If you are larger or smaller than average, the default cuff will not produce an accurate reading, and a more appropriately sized cuff should be used.

Official guidelines specify the following cuff sizes:

  • Small adult cuff: For arm circumferences of 22 to 26 centimeters (cm)
  • Adult cuff: For arm circumferences of 27 to 34 cm
  • Large adult cuff: For arm circumferences of 35 to 44 cm
  • Adult thigh cuff: For arm circumferences of 45 to 52 cm

Proper Positioning

Find someplace to sit where your body is well-supported in an upright position and your feet are flat on the ground. Consider sitting at a dinner table, rather than a couch, and relaxing your arm on the tabletop. The cuffed part of your arm should be supported at the same level as your heart.

The bottom of the cuff should be placed just above the bend of your elbow and directly against your skin. Be sure to roll up your sleeves if you are wearing them, and remove any layers that are in the way.

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 you 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. The AHA recommends an automatic, cuff-style, bicep (upper-arm) monitor, but there are other options.

When selecting a blood pressure monitor, consider the following:

  • Fit: 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 more than one person will be using the monitor, make sure to choose one that fits everyone.
  • Features: Some blood pressure monitors offer extra tech features, like Bluetooth and app connectivity. If you don't think you'll benefit from these extras, go ahead and choose one that is efficient, 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 person, or child, you should 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.

Summary

Blood pressure increases with age, but exercise, a healthy diet, and avoiding smoking can help lower your risk of hypertension (high blood pressure). Seeing your doctor for regular blood pressure checks and learning to check your own can help you stay healthy.

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. Follow their guidance to keep your blood pressure under control.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. Vital signs: normal blood pressure (mmHg) (PICU chart).

  2. Virani S, Alonso A, Aparicio H, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2021 update. Circulation. 2021 Jan;143(8):254-743. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000950

  3. American Heart Association. What is high blood pressure? Published 2020.

  4. NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC). Worldwide trends in blood pressure from 1975 to 2015: a pooled analysis of 1479 population-based measurement studies with 19·1 million participantsLancet. 2017 Jan;389(10064):37-55. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31919-5

  5. Wright JD, Hughes JP, Ostchega Y, Yoon SS, Nwankwo T. Mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure in adults aged 18 and over in the United States, 2001-2008. Natl Health Stat Report. 2011 Mar;(35):1-22, 24.

  6. American Heart Association. More than 100 million Americans have high blood pressure, AHA says. Published January 2018.

  7. Muntner P, Hardy S, Fine L, et al. Trends in blood pressure control among US adults with hypertension, 1999-2000 to 2017-2018. JAMA. 2020 Sep;324(12):1190-1200. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.14545

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hypertension prevalence among adults aged 18 and over: United States, 2017–2018. Updated April 2020.

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Know your risk for high blood pressure. Reviewed February 2020.

  10. American Heart Association. Understanding blood pressure readings.

  11. American Heart Association. Hypertensive crisis: When you should call 911 for high blood pressure.

  12. National Institute on Aging. High blood pressure. Reviewed May 2018.

  13. American Heart Association. Monitoring your blood pressure at home. Reviewed November 2017.

  14. Irving G, Holden J, Stevens R, Mcmanus RJ. Which cuff should I use? Indirect blood pressure measurement for the diagnosis of hypertension in patients with obesity: a diagnostic accuracy reviewBMJ Open. 2016 Nov;6(11):e012429. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012429

  15. American Heart Association. Monitoring your blood pressure at home. Updated November 2017.