What numbers are considered high blood pressure?

Hafeza Shaikh, DO
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
A top systolic blood pressure number in the range of 140 to 150 is the first stage of high blood pressure that doctors need to be aware of. One's blood pressure numbers change over time, but typically, the top number -- the systolic blood pressure -- should be anywhere between 120 and 139. One exception in that situation has to do with age. If you're above the age of 65, that top number can be in the 140s, meaning under 150, and still be considered within normal limits.

For the bottom number, anything above 90 when you're over the age of 65 would be considered hypertensive; but otherwise, between 85 and 90 is considered the first stage of hypertension, so ideally, you want that bottom number under 85.

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Mehrdad Ariani, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Blood pressure readings are usually given as two numbers -- for example, 120 over 80 (written as 120/80 mmHg). One or both of these numbers can be too high.
The top number is called the systolic blood pressure, and the bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure.
  • Normal blood pressure is when your blood pressure is lower than 120/80 mmHg most of the time.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) is when your blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or above most of the time.
  • If your blood pressure numbers are 120/80 or higher, but below 140/90, it is called pre-hypertension.
Blood pressure above 140 mm Hg systolic and/or 90 mm Hg diastolic is considered hypertensive. There are 2 stages of hypertension. Stage 1 hypertension is systolic blood pressure between 140 to 159 mm Hg and/or diastolic blood pressure 90 to 99 mm Hg. Stage 2 hypertension is blood pressure greater than 160 mm Hg systolic and/or 100 mm Hg diastolic. When systolic and diastolic pressures fall into different categories, your healthcare professional should select the higher category to classify your blood pressure. For example, 160/80 mm Hg would be considered stage 2 hypertension.

If you are hypertensive and have begun receiving initial medication therapy, you will probably need to return for follow-up and adjustment of medications once a month until your blood pressure goal is reached. More frequent visits may be necessary for those with stage 2 hypertension.
Robert H. Levitt, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
A healthy blood pressure is less than 120/80, prehypertension is 120-139/80-89, and high blood pressure (HTN) is anything over 140/90, according to the American Heart Association. A single high blood pressure reading does not mean you have HTN. Your blood pressure could be temporarily high for a number of reasons, including stress. To diagnose HTN, your doctor will take several blood pressure readings over time or have you monitor your blood pressure at home. If you blood pressure remains high (greater than 140/90), your doctor will probably want you to begin treatment for HTN. Diet changes, exercise, and certain medications can help you lower your blood pressure to a healthy range. 
James A. Lally, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Blood pressure (BP) can rise or fall with changes in posture, exercise, stress levels and sleep habits. The American Heart Association says for adults over age 20, blood pressure should normally be less than 120/80 mm Hg (less than 120 systolic AND less than 80 diastolic). A blood pressure level of 140/90 mm Hg or higher is considered high, known as hypertension. Blood pressure in-between is considered prehypertension. This means that you don't have high blood pressure now, but are likely to develop it in the future if you don’t take steps to prevent it.

One high BP reading doesn’t mean you have high blood pressure; your doctor will likely check your numbers over time and might have you monitor BP at home before making a diagnosis. You can take steps to prevent and control high blood pressure by adopting healthy lifestyle habits, an effective first step.
Manish P. Gupta, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Your blood pressure rises with each heartbeat and falls when your heart relaxes between beats. While BP can change from minute to minute with changes in posture, exercise, stress or sleep, it should normally be less than 120/80 mm Hg (less than 120 systolic AND less than 80 diastolic) for an adult age 20 or over. About one in three (33.5%) U.S. adults has high blood pressure. If your blood pressure reading is higher than normal, your doctor may take several readings over time and/or have you monitor your blood pressure at home before diagnosing you with high blood pressure.

A single high reading does not necessarily mean that you have high blood pressure. However, if readings stay at 140/90 mm Hg or above (systolic 140 or above OR diastolic 90 or above) over time, your doctor will likely want you to begin a treatment program. Such a program almost always includes lifestyle changes and often prescription medication for those with readings of 140/90 or higher.
Andrea C. Bryan, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
High blood pressure (hypertension) is defined as a blood pressure that is consistently at or above 140/90. Goal blood pressure should be less than 130/80. In between these two numbers is termed "prehypertension" and signals a need for lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, increased exercise, or decreased sodium intake.

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A blood pressure level of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high. Most people over age 65 have high blood pressure.

If your blood pressure is between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg, then you are considered to be in the "prehypertension" category. This means that you don't have high blood pressure, or hypertension, now but you are more likely to develop it in the future.

You can take steps to prevent high blood pressure by adopting a healthier lifestyle that includes weight loss through improved eating habits and regular exercise.
Prarthana Beuria, MD
Internal Medicine

Blood pressure is made of 2 numbers. The top number, systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your blood vessels during your heart beat, while the bottom number, diastolic, measures pressure in between heartbeats. Blood pressure is considered to be high if the systolic (top) number is 140 or higher AND/OR the diastolic (bottom) number is 90 or higher. People with systolic pressure less than 140 but at or above 120, OR diastolic pressure less than 90 but at or above 80 are considered to be at risk for high blood pressure or hypertension.

Emily H. Wang, MD
Internal Medicine

High blood pressure is when the top number (systolic) is higher than 140, OR if the bottom number (diastolic) is higher than 90. Normal blood pressure should be less than 120/80, and anything in between is considered "pre-hypertension." High blood pressure needs to be measured properly on at least three separate office visits before a formal diagnosis of hypertension is given.

Merle Myerson, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Cardiovascular specialist Dr. Merle Myerson explains blood pressure and which numbers are considered high by your doctor. Watch Dr. Myerson's video for important tips and information about heart health.
Categories for blood pressure levels in adults ages 18 and older (who are not on medicine for high blood pressure, are not having a short-term illness, and do not have other conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease) are:
  • Normal: systolic less than 120; diastolic less than 80
  • Pre-hypertension: systolic 120-139; diastolic 80-89
  • High blood pressure stage 1: systolic 140-159; diastolic 90-99
  • High blood pressure stage 2: systolic 160 or higher; diastolic 100 or higher
Emilia Klapp
Nutrition & Dietetics
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is blood pressure greater than 140 over 90 mm HG (millimeters of mercury). For an adult, optimal blood pressure is 120 over 80, although it can range from 110 over 70 to 140 over 90.

Continue Learning about Hypertension



Clinically known as hypertension, high blood pressure can cause a host of problems if left untreated. The most common type of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure causes our hearts to work harder by forcing blood to push ag...

ainst the walls of our arteries at an elevated level. Hypertension is the leading cause of strokes and heart attack. It also increases your risk of having heart and kidney failure and hardening of the arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis.

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.