Blood pressure (BP) measures the force exerted by the heart on the artery walls as it pumps blood through the body.
Average blood pressure varies by gender and tends to increase with age. It’s important to know how blood pressure affects your health.
This article discusses how healthcare providers can distinguish between “normal” blood pressure and high blood pressure (hypertension), and includes a blood pressure chart by age and gender. We will also discuss the health risks of high blood pressure, how to control your blood pressure, and when to call your healthcare provider.
What do blood pressure numbers mean?
Blood pressure indicators consist of two numbers – for example, 120/80 mm Hg. These two numbers are an important part of measuring blood pressure.
The top number (systolic pressure) measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart is beating. The bottom number (diastolic pressure) measures the pressure in the arteries between each heartbeat.
The standard unit of measurement is mm Hg, meaning “millimeters of mercury”. Mercury pressure gauges have been replaced by electronic pressure gauges, but the abbreviation is still used.
Normal blood pressure for children
Normal blood pressure levels in children vary by age. Stead Family Children’s Hospital of Iowa provides a blood pressure chart: 1
What is considered healthy for your child varies by height, age, and gender. You can use the Baylor College of Medicine calculator to see if your child’s blood pressure is in the normal range.
Normal blood pressure for adults
According to the American Heart Association, normal blood pressure for adults (age 20 and older) is less than 120/80 mm Hg.2
Hypertension, on the other hand, is usually defined as high blood pressure when the systolic pressure is 130 mm Hg or higher and the diastolic pressure is 80 mm Hg or higher.3.
Average blood pressure for age
As we age, the arteries harden, and plaque (fat) builds up inside them, raising blood pressure. If your blood pressure is too high, you are at a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and other illnesses.
According to an analysis of research published in the Lancet, the average blood pressure worldwide in 2015 was 127/79 mm Hg for men and 122/77 mm Hg for women.
When researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics looked at the average blood pressure of US adults between 2001 and 2008, the average reading was 122/71 mm Hg. 124/72 mm Hg for men and 121/70 mm Hg for women. It increased with age and was significantly higher in blacks.5
Scientists have found the following breakdown by age, sex, race and ethnicity: 5