Blood pressure is the force that circulating blood exerts on the arteries’ walls as the heart pumps blood around the body. Average blood pressure readings may vary depending on age.
As people get older, they are more likely to have elevated blood pressure. This is because blood vessels become stiffer with age, which makes blood pressure rise.
Nearly half of adults in the United States have high blood pressure. Having blood pressure that is too high or low may increase a person’s chances of severe health conditions, including stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and kidney disease.
The only way for a person to know whether their blood pressure is within a normal range is to take a blood pressure reading. A doctor can then treat abnormal blood pressure to prevent complications.
In this article, we will examine average blood pressure by age. We will also look at the causes of high and low blood pressure and potential treatments.
Blood pressure is the force of blood flowing through a person’s blood vessels.
Doctors calculate a person’s blood pressure using two measurements known as systolic and diastolic.
Systolic blood pressure is the highest level of force at which the heart pumps blood around the body. Diastolic blood pressure is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.
Blood pressure is written with systolic blood pressure first and then diastolic blood pressure, for example, 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
If either measurement is too high, it could mean a person has high blood pressure. If they are too low, it could suggest low blood pressure.
The cut-off point for diagnosing high blood pressure does not change with age.
If a person needs to know whether their child’s blood pressure is within the normal range, they should ask a doctor for guidance.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recognizes five blood pressure ranges, including:
|Blood pressure range||Systolic (mm Hg)||Diastolic (mm Hg)|
|Normal||Less than 120||and||Less than 80|
|Elevated||120–129||and||Less than 80|
|Hypertension stage 1||130–139||or||80–89|
|Hypertension stage 2||140 or higher||or||90 or higher|
|Hypertension crisis||Higher than 180||or||Higher than 120|
A person can also have low blood pressure, usually a reading of less than 90/60 mm Hg.
Low blood pressure is not generally as much of a problem as high blood pressure. However, consistently low blood pressure could signal a medical condition.
A 2020 analysis
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, does not usually have noticeable symptoms, so the only way for a person to determine whether their blood pressure is within range is to do a blood pressure check.
Long-term high blood pressure can increase the risk of several severe and potentially life threatening health conditions, including:
- heart disease
- heart attack
- heart failure
- peripheral arterial disease
- aortic aneurysm
- kidney disease
- vascular dementia
Risk factors for high blood pressure include a person’s lifestyle, existing health conditions, and family medical history.
Some medications can also increase blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around
Doctors can usually only identify the cause of high blood pressure in a small number of people. They focus on steps to lower blood pressure to within normal limits if they cannot pinpoint the cause.
Low blood pressure, also called hypotension, is not usually as serious as high blood pressure but can still cause a person to experience unwanted symptoms.
Symptoms of low blood pressure may include:
- lightheadedness or dizziness
- blurred vision
- dehydration or unusual thirst
- generally feeling weak
- cold, clammy, pale skin
Causes of low blood pressure could include some medications, being pregnant, and having diabetes. Low blood pressure may also run in families.
A significant decrease in blood volume, such as from an injury, can cause low blood pressure, or it may have a link to heart problems or endocrine issues.
Treatment depends on whether a person has high or low blood pressure.
For low blood pressure, a person may require a change in medication or dosage. Alternatively, a person may resolve low blood pressure by wearing compression stockings to improve circulation and increase blood pressure.
There are many options for treating high blood pressure, including lifestyle changes and medications.
Lifestyle changes that may help reduce high blood include:
- eating a healthful diet
- decreasing salt intake
- limiting alcohol
- losing excess weight
- exercising regularly
- cutting down on caffeine
- quitting smoking
There are a variety of medications a doctor may recommend to manage high blood pressure, including:
- ACE inhibitors
- angiotensin II receptor blockers
- calcium channel blockers
- alpha-2 receptor agonists
- combined alpha- and beta-blockers
- central agonists
- peripheral adrenergic inhibitors
People can purchase a digital monitor to keep an eye on their blood pressure at home. They are easily portable, so a person can take them out with them if necessary and test their blood pressure at any time.
An arm blood pressure monitor is generally more accurate than a wrist blood pressure machine.
Taking multiple sets of measurements a few minutes apart ensures the readings are similar and accurate.
A person should ask a doctor to test their blood pressure every 2 years beginning at age 18. People older than age 40 or younger but with an elevated risk of high blood pressure should ask their doctor for a blood pressure test annually.
If a person has abnormal blood pressure, they may need to check their blood pressure more often.
Isolated incidences of low blood pressure are not a cause for concern, but a person should seek medical advice if other symptoms accompany it. A person should record their symptoms, activities, and when they occur to assist with diagnosis.
It is important that a person seek medical advice if they think they may have high blood pressure, or know that they do and do not have it under control.
Healthcare professionals can help people put together a plan of action to lower their blood pressure and decrease the risk of long-term complications.
An AHA report suggests that the lifetime risk of high blood pressure from age 20–85 is between 69–86%. This means that as people get older, they should regularly test their blood pressure to identify abnormalities and prevent complications.
Having blood pressure that is too high or too low has many causes and could increase the likelihood of severe medical conditions and complications.
Living a healthy lifestyle or making lifestyle changes can help keep blood pressure levels under control. Doctors can also prescribe medications to help maintain normal blood pressure.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., but the AHA notes that death rates have decreased significantly due to people receiving high blood pressure treatment earlier.