Understanding Blood Pressure Numbers: What’s Normal?

So when is your blood pressure high enough to go to the hospital? Read on to learn how blood pressure works, the risks involved with high blood pressure, and what’s normal. If you’re in a hurry and need a reference, skip to the summary at the bottom of the page.

Understanding Blood Pressure Numbers: What’s Normal?

Your blood pressure measurement is in the form of two numbers. So, any blood pressure meter will show a number on the top and another on the bottom. The top number is your systolic pressure, which measures how much pressure is in your arteries when your heart is beating. On the other hand, the bottom number measures the pressure when your heart is in between beats.

The trouble is, you could have high blood pressure for many years without ever showing symptoms. But, it increases your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke significantly, along with other grave health problems. You might not even consciously realize it even if your blood pressure reaches life-threatening levels.

The good thing is, diagnosing high blood pressure is a simple process. You will likely be able to find kiosks that measure your blood pressure available at local clinics or pharmacies. You can ask your doctor about your blood pressure. Alternatively, you can purchase a good-quality blood pressure monitor from your local pharmacy.

It’s important to note that the accuracy of a blood pressure reading depends on using the correct cuff size for your arm and how the machine is used.

Normal Blood Pressure vs. Hypertension

The American Heart Association recognizes five distinct blood pressure ranges.

    • If your blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg, it is considered to be within the normal range.


    • But if your blood pressure is beyond normal and less than 129/80 mmHg, you are within the elevated range and run the risk of developing high blood pressure if you don’t take steps to control it.


  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) has three defined stages. Stage 1 Hypertension is when blood pressure is within the ranges of 130/80 and 139/89 mmHg. A doctor will likely either prescribe blood pressure medication or insist on lifestyle changes based on your risk of developing heart disease or stroke.
  • Stage 2 Hypertension is when blood pressure ranges around 140/90 mmHg or higher. Now, doctors are likely to prescribe both medication and lifestyle changes.
  • Stage 3 Hypertension is dangerous, showing levels around or above 180/120 mmHg. You could be experiencing a hypertensive crisis, and this blood pressure requires medical attention.

If you measure abnormally high blood pressure, wait five minutes before testing the blood pressure again. Repeated readings will mean you must contact a doctor immediately.

However, if you’re experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, numbness, weakness or fatigue, chest pain, vision changes, or difficulty speaking, do not wait. Call 911 immediately.

Summary and Conclusion

Here’s the short version: if you have a blood pressure reading of 180/120 mmHg (180 mmHg systolic or 120 mmHg diastolic) or higher, you could be experiencing a hypertensive emergency. In this case, head to your nearest hospital, primary care practice or consult your doctor immediately.

Aqeeq Internal Medicine is your best primary care practice in the Houston area. We aim to give you personalized, compassionate, high-quality care, and our focus is always to put your health first. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation, please give us a call at (832) 786-8195.



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