What do the blood pressure numbers mean?

Every blood pressure has two numbers and can be written in two ways:

118/72 mmHg  118/72 mmHg

The top number (118) is the systolic blood pressure. The systolic blood pressure is the force in the blood vessels when the heart squeezes during a heartbeat.

The bottom number (72) is the diastolic blood pressure. The diastolic blood pressure is the force in the blood vessels when the heart is resting between heart beats. The symbol “mmHg” is read as “millimeters of mercury.”

 

There are 4 blood pressure categories for all adults (anyone at least 18 years of age).

Even if you do not have high blood pressure, you should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year. Talk to your healthcare provider about what you can do to lower your blood pressure.

Normal blood pressureNormal Blood Pressure

Your top number (systolic) is less than 120 mmHg and your bottom number (diastolic) is less than 80 mmHg.

Pre-HypertensionPre-Hypertension

Your top number (systolic) is between 120 and 139 mmHg or your bottom number (diastolic) is between 80 and 89 mmHg.

Your blood pressure is in the “borderline” range. You are at high risk of developing high blood pressure (also called “hypertension”).

Stage 1 HypertensionStage 1 High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Your top number (systolic) is between 140 and 159 mmHg or your bottom number (diastolic) is between 90 and 99 mmHg.

You have high blood pressure (hypertension). Sometimes this level of high blood is called “mildly high.” You are still at risk of having damage to your body from the high pressure.

Stage 2 HypertensionStage 2 High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Your top number (systolic) is at least 160 mmHg or higher or your bottom number (diastolic) is at least 100 mmHg or higher.

You have high blood pressure (hypertension). You are at risk of having damage to your body from the high pressure against your blood vessels – including heart attack, stroke, heart failure, or kidney disease.