Blood pressure is the force exerted against the walls of the arteries and veins by blood as it circulates through the body. Blood pressure is one of the body’s most important vital signs, and should be carefully monitored, especially by persons who have or are at risk for abnormally high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.
But what, exactly, is a “normal” blood pressure level for adults? While there is no single answer, since individuals’ vital signs can vary significantly by age, weight, general health, body type, and other variables, there are ranges that are considered normal for adult blood pressure. Knowing these ranges for your blood pressure is very important, and keeping tabs on your blood pressure level can help you maintain awareness of your cardiac health.
Why Worry about Normal Blood Pressure in Adults?
High blood pressure can indicate or contribute to the presence of serious health conditions, including heart disease, arterial aneurysm, stroke, enlargement of the heart, and kidney disease. Persons suffering from diabetes should also carefully monitor their blood pressure. For these reasons, maintaining blood pressure within a normal range is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.
How is Blood Pressure Measured?
Usually, blood pressure is measured using an instrument called a sphygmomanometer. The sphygmomanometer has a cuff that can be placed around the arm and inflated with air, putting pressure on the arteries in the arm. The pressure squeezes the artery closed. By placing a stethoscope on the area of the arm over the artery and below the cuff, an examiner can listen for the sound of the pulse of blood returning to the artery as pressure is slowly released, noting the pressure at which the pulse returns.
The pressure reading at which the blood returns is the “systolic” blood pressure. The point at which no further sounds can be heard because of the full return of blood volume is the “diastolic” blood pressure. A blood pressure reading is stated as the systolic number followed by the diastolic number.
For adults, a normal blood pressure reading is usually considered to be in the range between 90/60 to 119/79 (systolic/diastolic). Blood pressure from the 120/80 to 139/89 range is considered “pre-hypertensic,” and should be closely monitored. Measurements higher than the pre-hypertensic ranges fall within either type 1 or type 2 hypertension. If your blood pressure is higher than normal for adults, your physician may advise medication to lower your blood pressure into a normal adult range.