In most cases, the normal blood pressure range measures 120/80 or less. Generally speaking, people who are older tend to have higher blood pressure levels than people who are younger. Levels that are above 120/80 but below 140/90 are still usually within the normal blood pressure range, but are thought to be on the high end of normal. When blood pressure levels exceed 140/90, this is considered high blood pressure, also called hypertension. People with high blood pressure are at greater risk for heart problems and stroke, and may need to begin medication to keep their levels within the normal range.
The first number used in measuring blood pressure range levels represents systolic pressure. This measures the pressure inside the vessels as blood is pumped through them from the heart. The second number represents diastolic pressure, which indicates the pressure within the vessels in between heartbeats before blood is pushed through. The diastolic number should always be smaller than the systolic number because it is measured when the heart is resting and not actively pumping blood. As a person gets older, his or her veins lose a lot of their flexibility, which is why younger people tend to have lower blood pressure.
A person with borderline hypertension almost never has any symptoms at all. When a person has hypertension, he or she might have some symptoms, but they will usually not be severe enough for the person to realize anything is wrong. If symptoms are experienced, they might include headache, blurred vision, and occasionally nausea. High blood pressure is frequently referred to as being a silent killer because most people don't know they have it. This is one of the reasons why doctors almost always measure blood pressure each time a person comes in, even if the patient's reasons for being there are related to some other problem.
When a patient has a high blood pressure reading, doctors will typically ask several questions about the activity of the patient for that day in case the high reading might be related to something else, like increased physical activity or nervousness. In most cases, the patient may be asked to come back in to have the blood pressure checked again. If the levels are consistently measuring high, a hypertension diagnosis might be made. Patients who have a blood pressure range that is on the high end but not quite hypertension may be advised to check their own blood pressure every day and to make certain lifestyle changes that might help prevent hypertension from developing.