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What Is Normal Blood Pressure?

The heart is a magnificent pump!  It is only the size of a fist, weighs less than a pound and beats about 100,000 times every day. It is responsible for pumping 2000 gallons of blood per day (or about 5 quarts per minute) through 60,000 miles of arteries, capillaries, and veins. The average life expectancy for a woman in the United States is approximately 80 years, which means it is vital to take care of this incredible organ!

This pump lasts longer, runs smoother and more effectively when there is less pressure in the system.  Numerous clinical trials have proven that tighter control of blood pressure in adults decreases heart failure, cardiovascular events (such as a heart attack or stroke), and death. Taking care of the heart also improves mental and physical health (according to self-reporting techniques). A thorough evaluation of these data and findings has led the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) to redefine a normal blood pressure of 120/80 mm Hg or less. Hence, clinicians may be more direct to patients regarding lifestyle modifications in order to decrease blood pressure readings and be more apt to start medical therapy.

Here are the new definitions of hypertension:

  • A normal blood pressure (BP) means the top number (systolic) should be less than 120 mm Hg and the bottom number (diastolic) should be less than 80 mm Hg.
  • Elevated blood pressure is defined as the top number being between120 to 129 mm Hg with the bottom number still being less than 80 mm Hg.
  • Stage 1 hypertension is when the top number is between 130 and139 mm Hg or the bottom number is elevated, between 80 to 89 mm Hg.
  • Stage 2 hypertension is having the top number at 140 mm Hg or higher or the lower number at 90 mm Hg or higher.
DefinitionMeasured in mm Hg
Normal BP<120/<80
Elevated BP120-129/<80
Stage 1 hypertension130-139 (top number)OR 80-89 (bottom number)
Stage 2 hypertension≥140 (top number)OR ≥90 (bottom number)

Treating blood pressure doesn’t always mean starting a daily medication.  For people at low risk for heart disease, nutrition and activity modifications are often sufficient.  Combining the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan with a diet low in sodium is highly effective in decreasing blood pressure.  The DASH eating plan emphasizes the consumption of vegetables and fruits, includes low-fat dairy, whole-grains, fish, poultry, and nuts.  Red meats, saturated and trans fats, sodium, sweets, and sugary drinks are limited.  Every 1 to 2 pounds of weight loss can decrease blood pressure by approximately 1 mm Hg. Stress reduction and decreased alcohol consumption can also decrease blood pressure.

DASH eating plan8-14
weight loss5-20 (per10 kg weight loss)
↓ sodium2-8
alcohol in moderation2-4
↓ stress5
smoking cessation2-4
physical activity                 4-9

Regular physical activity has a plethora of benefits, including a reduction in blood pressure.  Exercising for 40 minutes 3 to 4 times per week is associated with a reduction of 3 to 5 mm Hg.  Even meditation may decrease blood pressure by 2 to 4 points. If lifestyle changes are not enough to decrease the pressure in the cardiovascular system and the blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or higher, the medication should be initiated.  Pressures even lower than this may require medical intervention if there are other coexisting conditions.  There are many types of medications available and two or more medications may be required to get pressures to a goal of less than 130/80 mm Hg.


Weight control & reduced body fat

Longer lifespan & improved quality of life

Better management of chronic pain

Stronger immune system

Reduced risk of diabetes and cancer

Stronger bones & muscles

Improved oxygenation of tissue & improvement in organ function

Enhanced flexibility, balance & coordination, therefore increased mobility & independence with age

Decrease in stress

Improved mood & management of symptoms of depression or anxiety

Unfortunately, sometimes an individual can do everything right and still end up with hypertension or high blood pressure.  Even though this is frustrating, diagnosis and treatment can help control long-term complications and disabilities or possible death that are associated with this disorder.  Throughout the world, it is estimated that a billion adults have a blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or greater.  Identification and appropriate treatment will not only help to control health care costs but are also likely to improve the quality and quantity of life.

Ask your provider about your blood pressure.

Haley Pledger, PA
Women’s Care
Matthew Walton, DO
Austin Bills, DO
Family Medicine
Aaron Fausett, PA
Family Medicine
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