What Is a Normal Blood Pressure Reading?

Knowing Your Blood Pressure Numbers Can Be Lifesaving

Doctor taking patients blood pressure
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For most people, a normal blood pressure reading is around 120/80 mmHg (pronounced "120 over 80"). There can be a fair amount of variation in this reading, depending on a person's overall health and other physical characteristics.

Even how a person is feeling at the moment their blood pressure is read: For example, nervousness can cause the heart to beat faster, which in turn increases blood pressure (hypertension). This is common among people who become anxious during doctor visits: In fact, high blood pressure in these circumstances sometimes is referred to as white coat hypertension.

That said, someone whose blood pressure tends to be chronically and significantly above or below normal (hypotension) can be an indication of a health problem, particularly in the case of high blood pressure which can be symptomatic of a potential heart problem.

For this reason, it's a good idea to know what a normal blood pressure reading is for you so that you and your doctor will be able to gauge if it becomes elevated enough to be a concern.

What Is Normal Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure measures the force of blood on the walls of blood vessels as it is pumped throughout the body. For most people, a normal blood pressure reading is around 180/20 mmHg.

What is Blood Pressure?

When your heart beats, the force of blood as it travels through your body to deliver oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs exerts pressure on the inner walls of arteries .

There are two aspects of blood pressure, systolic and diastolic, which accounts for the two numbers that are used to measure it:

Systolic Blood Pressure
  • The top number in a blood pressure reading

  • The force exerted against the inner walls of arteries that occurs with each heartbeat

Diastolic Blood Pressure
  • The bottom number in a blood pressure reading

  • The force exerted on artery walls when the heart is at rest (between beats)

Blood pressure is measured using an inflatable blood pressure cuff attached to a meter that detects the amount of force blood puts on arterial walls during and between heartbeats, expressing this pressure as millimeters of mercury (mmHg).

Normal vs. Abnormal Blood Pressure

Both high blood pressure and low pressure can indicate a health issue, although hypertension typically is more of a concern than hypotension. The American Heart Association guidelines define five categories of blood pressure values.

Systolic pressure generally is given more consideration for people 50 and older because it tends to rise steadily with age as arteries become less pliable and plaque begins to build up, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure increases the workload on the heart and can damage arteries. Over time, chronic hypertension increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, organ failure, and kidney disease.

The American Heart Association recognizes five categories of blood pressure ranging from normal to dangerously high :

Stage Systolic Reading   Diastolic Reading
Normal Less than 120 mmHg and Less than 80 mmHg
Elevated 120 to 129 mmHg and Less than 80 mmhG
Stage 1 Hypertension 130 to 139 mmHg or 80 to 89 mmHg
Stage 2 Hypertension 140 mmHg or higher or 90 mmHg or higher
Hypertensive Crisis (a medical emergency) 180 mmHg or higher and/or 120 mmHg or higher

High blood pressure does not cause obvious symptoms, and so it's advisable to get regular medical exams, see your doctor if you suspect anything might be wrong, and take measures in your daily life to prevent hypertension, such as eating a healthy diet, cutting back on added salt, exercising regularly, not smoking, and if you drink alcohol, imbibing in moderation.

Low Blood Pressure

Hypotension is less well-defined than hypertension, although 90/60 mmHg generally is regarded as potential too low. Low blood pressure only becomes problematic when it causes symptoms:

  • Fainting
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Dehydration
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Blurred vision
  • Cold, clammy, pale skin
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired ability to concentrate

A Word From Verywell

Normal blood pressure can vary somewhat, and so what's normal for you may not be normal for someone else. The next time your doctor measures your blood pressure, ask them what the numbers are so that you will have an idea of where you stand. (Obviously, if your blood pressure is alarmingly high or low your doctor will tell you right away if treatment is necessary.) You might even ask to have your blood pressure taken in both arms, as there sometimes can be enough difference in the two readings to be significant. Finally, learning to take your own blood pressure at home may be worthwhile with the guidance of your doctor.

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Article Sources
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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High blood pressure symptoms and causes. May 19, 2020.

  3. American Heart Association. What is high blood pressure? Oct. 31, 2016.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measure your blood pressure. Jan 30, 2020.

  5. American Heart Association. Health threats from high blood pressure. Updated October 31, 2016.

  6. American Heart Association. Understanding blood pressure readings.

  7. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure/low-blood-pressure-when-blood-pressure-is-too-low#:~:text=Symptoms%20of%20low%20blood%20pressure&text=Dizziness%20or%20lightheadedness,Dehydration%20and%20unusual%20thirst