The four categories of blood pressure
There are four general categories for blood pressure readings. See the chart to the right.
- Normal blood pressure:
120/80 mm Hg or lower
120 to 139 mm Hg (systolic)
or 80 to 89 mm Hg (diastolic)
- Stage one hypertension:
140 to 159 mm Hg (systolic)
or 90 to 99 mm Hg (diastolic)
- Stage two hypertension:
160/100 mm Hg or higher
Getting diagnosed for high blood pressure
High blood pressure can increase the risk of serious health consequences, including heart failure, heart attack, kidney failure, and stroke. That’s why it’s so important to know if you have it. And even though it has no symptoms, your doctor or health care professional can easily diagnose hypertension.
Using a blood pressure monitor, they’ll take a reading of your blood pressure. Blood pressure is measured using an inflatable arm cuff and pressure-measuring gauge. The reading, given in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), has two numbers that record your systolic pressure (top) and diastolic pressure (bottom).
The natural rise and fall of blood pressure
Did you know that your blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day? Depending on certain situations, like if you’ve recently exercised, had caffeine, or even your hormone levels, your blood pressure will naturally go up or down. So while one high blood pressure reading could suggest you have hypertension, the best way for your doctor to tell is by looking at a series of readings.
It’s important to ask your doctor what you can do to help manage your high blood pressure. Make a plan to stick with any treatments you have been prescribed.
It’s also a good idea to regularly check your blood pressure, either at the doctor’s office, at your local pharmacy, or by using a home blood pressure monitor. For a demonstration on how to check your blood pressure at home, watch this video. You can download our helpful tracker tool for an easy way to keep track of your progress.