How to Read Blood Pressure Charts

By Lori Newell

Having your blood pressure checked regularly and understanding what the numbers mean is an important step in an overall healthy lifestyle. High blood pressure puts you at risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. You can have high blood pressure without having any symptoms. Therefore, the only way to know if your blood pressure is within normal limits is to check it regularly and keep track of any changes.

Know What High Blood Pressure Is Your blood pressure is a measurement that is taken to detect the force of your blood as it pushes through your arteries. Blood pressure measurements consist of two numbers: systolic and diastolic. Your systolic pressure represents the pressure created when the heart beats and pumps out blood. Your diastolic pressure represents when the heart is at rest and in between beats. These numbers are listed as a fraction with the systolic on the top and the diastolic on the bottom. The initials mmHG are written after the fraction, which stands for millimeters of mercury.

Normal Blood Pressure Readings If you are reading a blood-pressure chart and your blood pressure falls between 90/80 mmHG to 120/140 mmHG, you are considered within normal blood-pressure range. Your blood pressure can change day to day and even be higher or lower during certain parts of the day. So as long as you are within this range your blood pressure is at a healthy level. Your goal is to take steps to not let your blood pressure go higher.

Borderline High Blood Pressure If your blood-pressure reading is 140/90 mmHG, you are developing borderline high blood pressure. This is the time to take steps before your condition gets worse. At this level you may be able to avoid taking medication by modifying your diet, quitting smoking and making exercise a part of your regular daily routine.

High Blood Pressure If your blood pressure falls in a range higher than 140/90 mmHG on the blood-pressure chart, then you have high blood pressure or hypertension. If your reading falls between 140/90 mmHG to 160/100 mmHG, you have mild hypertension. This is also called stage-one high blood pressure. Between 160/100 mmHG to 180/110 mmHG you have moderate hypertension. You are now in stage-two high blood pressure. At this level you probably need medication and major lifestyle changes to help avoid further complications.

Dangerous Levels While any level of high blood pressure needs to be taken seriously and treated properly when your readings reach the top of the blood-pressure chart, you are at a level of severe high blood pressure. This is life threatening and needs to be treated immediately. Blood-pressure readings over 180/120 mmHG are a signal that you are at risk for swelling of the brain, kidney failure, blood-vessel rupture, heart failure, heart attack or stroke.


Check your blood pressure at the same time each day. Since your pressure can vary during the day, checking it at the same time gives you a more accurate reading.


Go to an emergency room immediately if your blood pressure falls within the severe level.

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