What is normal blood pressure?

Tzvi Doron, DO - Contributor Avatar

Reviewed by Tzvi Doron, DO, 

Tzvi Doron, DO - Contributor Avatar

Reviewed by Tzvi Doron, DO, 

LAST UPDATED: May 04, 2020

1 MIN READ

Blood pressure is the pressure that blood exerts on the inside of the arteries. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80. The top number is called the systolic blood pressure and represents the pressure when the heart is squeezing. The bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure and represents the pressure when the heart is relaxed. Blood pressure that is consistently elevated is called hypertension.

Usually, hypertension doesn’t have a specific cause. Doctors call this type of hypertension “essential hypertension.” However, it is sometimes due to a different medical condition, such as heart disease or kidney disease. Hypertension is a risk factor for many problems, such as heart attack and stroke. Blood pressure can be brought back down into the normal range through lifestyle modification (e.g., diet and exercise) and blood pressure-lowering medication.

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What we mean by normal

In medicine, using the term “normal” can sometimes be off-putting. Saying something is “normal” implies that everything else is “abnormal.” Additionally, saying something is “normal” may not be accurate, since something that is “normal” for you may not be “normal” for somebody else. Therefore, instead of saying certain values are “normal,” alternative terminology may be to say that these values are “healthy” or “within the reference range.”

Additionally, some values have well-defined cutoffs, while others do not. For example, when looking at hemoglobin A1c levels, a value of 6.5 or greater is always diagnostic of diabetes. On the other hand, when looking at testosterone levels, some use cutoffs of 270–1,070 ng/dL while others use cutoffs of 300–1,000 ng/dL.

The information presented here represents values that are commonly used as cutoffs. However, depending on the specific source you’re looking at or the laboratory you go to, their values may be a little different.

DISCLAIMER

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

May 04, 2020

Written by

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Fact checked by

Tzvi Doron, DO


About the medical reviewer

Dr. Tzvi Doron is Board Certified in Family Medicine by the American Board of Family Medicine.