What is blood pressure?
When your heart beats, it pumps blood round your body to give it the energy and oxygen it needs. As the blood moves, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels. The strength of this pushing is your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your arteries (and your heart) and this may lead to heart attacks and strokes.
What is normal blood pressure?
Ideally, we should all have a blood pressure below 120 over 80 (120/80). This is the ideal blood pressure for people wishing to have good health. At this level, we have a much lower risk of heart disease or stroke.
If your blood pressure is optimal, this is great news. By following our healthy living advice, you will be able to keep it this way.
If your blood pressure is above 120/80mmHg, you will need to lower it.
Most adults in the UK have blood pressure readings in the range from 120 over 80 (120/80) to 140 over 90 (140/90). If your blood pressure is within this range, you should be taking steps to bring it down or to stop it rising any further. Our five top tips will show you how.
The reason why people with blood pressure readings in this range should lower it, even though this is not classified as ‘high’ blood pressure, is that the higher your blood pressure, the higher your risk of health problems. For example, someone with a blood pressure level of 135 over 85 (135/85) is twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as someone with a reading of 115 over 75 (115/75).
Blood pressure chart
Use the blood pressure chart below to see what your blood pressure means. The blood pressure chart is suitable for adults of any age. (The level for high blood pressure does not change with age.)
Blood pressure readings have two numbers, for example 140/90mmHg.
The top number is your systolic blood pressure. (The highest pressure when your heart beats and pushes the blood round your body.) The bottom one is your diastolic blood pressure. (The lowest pressure when your heart relaxes between beats.)
The blood pressure chart below shows ranges of high, low and healthy blood pressure readings.
Blood pressure chart for adults
Using this blood pressure chart: To work out what your blood pressure readings mean, just find your top number (systolic) on the left side of the blood pressure chart and read across, and your bottom number (diastolic) on the bottom of the blood pressure chart. Where the two meet is your blood pressure.
What blood pressure readings mean
As you can see from the blood pressure chart, only one of the numbers has to be higher or lower than it should be to count as either high blood pressure or low blood pressure:
- 90 over 60 (90/60) or less: You may have low blood pressure. More on low blood pressure.
- More than 90 over 60 (90/60) and less than 120 over 80 (120/80): Your blood pressure reading is ideal and healthy. Follow a healthy lifestyle to keep it at this level.
- More than 120 over 80 and less than 140 over 90 (120/80-140/90): You have a normal blood pressure reading but it is a little higher than it should be, and you should try to lower it. Make healthy changes to your lifestyle.
- 140 over 90 (140/90) or higher (over a number of weeks): You may have high blood pressure (hypertension). Change your lifestyle – see your doctor or nurse and take any medicines they may give you. More on high blood pressure
- if your top number is 140 or more – then you may have high blood pressure, regardless of your bottom number.
- if your bottom number is 90 or more – then you may have high blood pressure, regardless your top number.
- if your top number is 90 or less – then you may have low blood pressure, regardless of your bottom number.
- if your bottom number is 60 or less – then you may have low blood pressure, regardless of your top number.