Understanding the Numbers

Optimal, or normal, blood pressure is anything less than 120/80 mmHg. Blood pressure between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg is an indication of prehypertension, which means you’re at greater risk of developing hypertension. In order to be diagnosed with hypertension, your blood pressure must measure higher than 140/90 mmHg, or 150/90 mmHg if you’re over 60.

If your blood pressure is in the upper range of prehypertension, with measurements that fall between 130/85 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg, you’re at twice the risk of developing hypertension than people with blood pressure readings in the optimal range. In addition, beginning at 115/75 mmHg, the risk of cardiovascular disease doubles with each increase of 20 millimeters of mercury in systolic blood pressure and each increase of 10 millimeters of mercury in diastolic blood pressure. That means if you go from 115/75 mmHg to 135/85 mmHg between visits with your provider, your risk of developing heart disease has doubled.

Blood Pressure Ranges*

BP Classification Systolic BP (mmHG) Operator Diastolic BP (mmHG)
Optimal Less than 120 and Less than 80
Pre-hypertension 120 – 139 or 80 – 89
Hypertension (<60 years old) 140 or greater or 90 or greater
Hypertension (≥60 years old) 150 or greater and 90 or greater

*Adapted from the VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the Diagnosis and Management of Hypertension in the Primary Care Setting (2014)