High blood pressure, or hypertension, does not always have observable symptoms. You may have high blood pressure and feel perfectly fine. So it’s important to regularly monitor your blood pressure to ensure you are within normal levels.
Your blood pressure reading includes a top number and a bottom number. The top number is your systolic reading. This is the pressure blood exerts against artery walls when the heart contracts or beats. The bottom number is the diastolic reading. This measures the force against your artery walls when the heart is relaxed or between beats.
Your blood pressure will fluctuate throughout the day depending on changes in posture, stress, sleep, and exercise. Regardless of fluctuations, your blood pressure on average should remain less than 120/80 mmHg.
Here are blood pressure categories as defined by the American Heart Association.
Normal blood pressure: less than 120/80 mmHg
Prehypertension: 120-139/80-89 mmHg
Stage 1 High Blood Pressure: 140-159/90-99 mmHg
Stage 2 High Blood Pressure: greater than 160/100 mmHg
Hypertensive Crisis: greater than 180/110 mmHg (seek emergency care)
Prehypertension increases your risk for developing high blood pressure. If you have prehypertension, this is an ideal time to assess your diet and lifestyle choices and implement changes.
To be diagnosed with high blood pressure, only one number needs to be elevated. For example, if your diastolic number (bottom number) is less than 80, which is within normal, but your systolic number (top number) is greater than 140 then this would be classified as high blood pressure.
Changing blood pressure as you age
A risk factor for high blood pressure is age, and you can’t change that. You will get older. Increased age equals greater likelihood blood pressure levels will increase.
This does NOT mean a higher blood pressure is normal or healthy. Regardless of your age, your goal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg.
But there are steps you can take at any age to prevent high blood pressure:
1. Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, lose weight.
2. Exercise daily.
3. Reduce salt intake.
4. Do not smoke.
5. Consume a healthy diet.