What is prehypertension?

Aggie Read, RN
A healthy blood pressure is generally considered to be <120/80. An elevated blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is generally considered to be > 140/90. Those pressures which fall between this range are considered to be pre-hypertension, with the upper number (systolic pressure) between 120-139, and the lower number (diastolic pressure) between 80-89. If you have been diagnosed with pre-hypertension and there is no underlying cause, your healthcare provider will make specific suggestions about lifestyle changes which will help your blood pressure return to a normal range. Some examples of lifestyle changes may be to reduce the intake of salty and fatty foods, and to increase your activity level. It will be important for your healthcare provider to monitor your blood pressure regularly to ensure it does not increase.
In May 2003, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) released new clinical practice guidelines for the prevention, detection and treatment of high blood pressure. The guidelines feature altered blood pressure categories, including a new prehypertension level, which covers about 70 million people.

This new category alerts you to your real risk of high blood pressure. Within four years of being diagnosed with prehypertension, nearly one in three adults ages 35 to 64 and nearly one in two adults ages 65 and older will end up with high blood pressure. You don't need medication therapy, unless you have another condition like diabetes or chronic kidney disease. However, you should make any necessary lifestyle changes, such as losing excess weight, becoming physically active, limiting alcohol consumption and following a heart-healthy eating plan, including cutting back on salt and other forms of sodium, to reduce your blood pressure levels.
Hypertension is a term used to describe high blood pressure, so prehypertension is when a person does not yet have high blood pressure but has levels that are above normal.

A normal blood pressure reading is anything at or below 120/80 mm/Hg (millimeters of mercury). The prehypertensive range is 121/81 mm/Hg to 139/89 mm/Hg. High blood pressure is 140/90 mm/Hg and above.

Prehypertension is your warning sign that you are at risk for high blood pressure. If you are diagnosed with prehypertension, lifestyle changes including diet, exercise, quitting smoking, and stress management may help bring your blood pressure down to normal levels or prevent or slow the progression to hypertension.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.