Normal Blood Pressure Reading Numbers

Doctor taking patients blood pressure
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Normal blood pressure is defined as less than 120/80. The American Heart Association revised its guidelines about what an optimal blood pressure range is, and when blood pressure is considered too high, or too low. This new range represents a change from previous guidelines, which classified pressures up to and including 120/80 as normal.

Systolic blood pressure is generally given more consideration for those 50 years and older because this number tends to rise steadily as people age due to decreased elasticity of arteries, a build-up of plaque in the arteries over years, and the increased risk of cardiovascular disease in older age groups.

Why Blood Pressure Is Important

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can be dangerous and increase your risk of stroke, heart attacks, heart failure, and kidney disease.

By lowering blood pressure in hypertensive patients, important organs such as the brain, heart, and kidneys, are protected from damage. Treating hypertension can achieve dramatic reductions in all of these conditions, and is an important part of maintaining overall health.


Blood pressure readings are comprised of two numbers: Systolic pressure (the top number) measures pressure in the arteries during heartbeats; diastolic pressure (the bottom number) measures pressure in the arteries in the interval between heartbeats, or when it is at rest.

Staging System

The system used to stage high blood pressure is based simply on the numbers, both systolic and diastolic, found in your blood pressure reading:

  • The systolic number, a measurement of your blood pressure while your heart pumps blood, appears on the top.
  • The diastolic number, a measurement of your blood pressure while your heart rests between beats, appears on the bottom.

Blood pressure has essentially two stages: Stage I and Stage II. Your blood pressure reading might also be explained as prehypertension or a hypertensive crisis.

Abnormal Blood Pressure

While 120/80 used to be considered normal, the American Heart Association guidelines define three levels of abnormal blood pressure values.

  • Normal = <120 systolic and <80 diastolic
  • Elevated = 120-129 systolic and diastolic < 80
  • Stage 1 hypertension = 130-139 systolic OR 80-89 diastolic
  • Stage 2 hypertension = 140 or higher systolic OR 90 or higher diastolic
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  1. American Heart Association. Understanding Blood Pressure Readings. Updated November 30, 2017.

  2. American Heart Association. Health Threats From High Blood Pressure. Updated October 31, 2016.