What is normal blood pressure?
Normal blood pressure means the pressure of blood moving in your blood vessels (veins and arteries) is in the range defined by clinicians. Blood pressure is measured in units of mmHg (millimeters of mercury; 1 mmHg denotes the pressure produced by a mercury column that is 1 mm high). It consists of 2 numbers; one is higher and the other is lower in readings.
- The higher number, known as systolic blood pressure, is the force with which the heart pumps blood around the body.
- The lower number, known as diastolic blood pressure, is a measure of the resistance to blood flow in the blood vessels during two heartbeats.
The normal blood pressure range varies by age. An estimated range of blood pressure for healthy individuals is given in the Table below (Ryerson University, 2018). It means that the normal value can lie anywhere in between, and is individualized.
For adults, in general, a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure of less than 80 mmHg is considered normal. Researchers and clinicians argue that normal blood pressure range also varies with gender, generally lower for women (Susan Cheng, MD, MPH, MMSc, 2021).
|Age bracket||Systolic BP Range||Diastolic BP Range|
|Younger than 6 months||45-90||30-65|
|6 months – 2 years||80-100||40-70|
|61 years or older||95-145||70-90|
12 things to do to maintain normal blood pressure
In general, high blood pressure (or hypertension) is a hindrance to achieving normal blood pressure. Low blood pressure (or hypotension) is rarely an issue. You may visit the NHS Webpage for hypotension if you need more information.
We have compiled a comprehensive list for you of the ‘To Dos’ for maintaining good blood pressure for hypertensive people.
1. Maintain a healthy weight
Obesity is strongly related to high blood pressure. Researchers say weight loss helps with lowering blood pressure in hypertensive people. A loss of 1 kg (or roughly 2.2 lbs) corresponds to a loss of 1 mmHg for overweight individuals with high blood pressure. You should, in principle, aim for a body mass index of less than 25 km/m2.
Another simple correlation is between waist size and risk for hypertension. It usually varies between gender and race. Generally speaking, a waist size of more than 102 cm (~40 inches) in men or 89 cm (~35 inches) in women indicates a risk of high blood pressure (Mayo Clinic webpage, accessed on 25 July 2022).
2. Routine Physical Activity
A sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to cardiovascular health. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends performing at least two and a half hours of moderate physical activity per week for an ideal health level. If you prefer vigorous exercise, that should be more than 75 minutes a week.
Adding physical activity to your routine helps in lowering high blood pressure by as much as 8 mmHg (Mayo Clinic webpage, accessed on 25 July 2022).
3. Heart-Friendly Diet
A balanced, heart-friendly, and healthy diet plan is a must for controlling hypertension. An ideal diet plan known as DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is recommended by The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), National Institute of Health (NIH). It mainly includes vegetables (and oils derived from them), fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, fat-limited dairy, fish, etc. Details of this plan can be found on the DASH webpage; a reference image is shared below for your reference.
4. No Alcohol
Alcohol is something whose harm is more than its benefits (be there any). To maintain normal blood pressure, completely avoid alcohol. A lot of other blogs say that you can get a couple of drinks, but I will encourage you to get rid of it completely. Believe me, you would not regret this decision as there is no good that you would miss by stopping alcohol. Seek the help of a professional if you have trouble quitting.
While alcohol may have some benefits, its negative effects outweigh the good. That’s why we ask you to quit it completely.
You can imagine the harm caused by the fact that alcohol may even affect the efficacy of any hypertension medication that you take. The harms are on all fronts whether personal (weight gain, sanity/memory issues, dependence, coordination issues), social (relationship issues, antisocial personality disorders, compromised civics), and psychological (depression, anxiety, learning impairment, self-harming thoughts as worse as suicide, and compromised development of the brain). All those detriments ultimately raise your risk for high blood pressure. If you have one resolution to change your habits, prioritize alcohol avoidance.
5. No Smoking
Smoking is another bad habit contributing to bad heart and lung health. Researchers (Doonan R, et al 2010; Jatoi N, 2007) say that smoking badly affects arterial stiffness, leading to high blood pressure. Although some people allow some leniency in alcohol use (which should not be the case, though), smoking is highly discouraged. There exist recommendations and rehabilitation programs for quitting smoking completely:
- SmokeFree project by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Stop Smoking Services by the UK National Health Service
- Canadian government-backed services to help quit smoking
- Australian government list of smoking and tobacco organizations, including iCanQuit and Quitline
6. No Salt – Crucial for Normal Blood Pressure
Did you notice above that DASH is a low salt/sodium diet? Our blood pressure is quite sensitive to salt (especially in older people). By reducing your salt intake, you can lower your blood pressure by up to 6 mmHg (Mayo Clinic webpage, accessed on 25 July 2022).
The maximum limit on sodium intake is 2.3 grams (ideal is less than 1.5 grams for adults). One way to reduce your salt intake is to stop using canned and precooked meals (including restaurant food – it’s better to cook your own!).
If you love cheese fondue, including pizzas, mac-n-cheese, lasagna, or cheesecakes, remember some types of cheese (i.e., American cheese) are richer in salt than others (i.e., Swiss, Mozzarella, or other natural cheeses). Choose the latter to limit your salt intake.
7. Good Water Intake and Limit Caffeine
Simple clean drinking water is a big blessing. Maintain enough water intake (6-8 glasses a day ~ 3-4 liters) to avoid dehydration, which can disrupt (lower and raise) your typical blood pressure. When your body organs don’t get enough water, they produce stress hormones. Blood pressure can thus rise to maintain blood supply to organs (Jessica Booth in Forbes, accessed on 25 July 2022).
Avoid drinking too much coffee, carbonated beverages, and energy drinks. They contain caffeine which badly affects the blood vessels (thereby raising blood pressure). If you are caffeine-addicted, reduce it gradually. Limit it to less than 200 mg a day (from all sources, including chocolate and some chewing gum) if you are concerned about maintaining blood pressure in the normal range(Mayo Clinic Expert Answers, accessed on 25 July 2022).
8. Sleep Management – Very Important for Maintaining Normal Blood Pressure
A sound sleep is necessary for maintaining normal blood pressure. Just like machines get hot by working continuously and need some rest, our body demands enough rest (at least six hours). Furthermore, good quality of sleep is essential. Snoring or sleep apnea increases the risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.
Mid-day napping is helpful, especially if you are making a physical or mental effort, or working long shifts. However, naptime should be less than 30 minutes (the limit may even be lower for some people). It is better to stick to a regular sleep schedule with nighttime being better for sleep. Just remember that the purpose of a nap is to just refresh ourselves, and not fall into a deep sleep.
9. Happiness Management
You need to manage your interactions with others as well as your inner self to live a happy life. Stress, depression, anger, etc. affect your mood as well as blood pressure badly. Manage to make your life happy by surrounding yourself with positive people, adopting good habits, and taking care of your mental and spiritual health. Being religious is also helpful in building social connections, ultimately benefiting your blood pressure (Meng Q et. al., 2019).
Meditation, mindfulness, satisfaction, gratitude, and other positive attributes will definitely benefit you in maintaining normal blood pressure. Negative personality traits, i.e. greed, anger, selfishness, are all detrimental to not only normal blood pressure but also to your overall well-being.
10. Work-Life Balance
Although it might be related to happiness management, we are listing it here to highlight its importance. High workload, disturbed family relations, limited social exposure, and the absence of contentment in life are all the results of work-life imbalance.
Work, Rest, Play, Live – Four simple principles to divide your 24 hours for maintaining work-life balance – an important factor for maintaining normal blood pressure as well as normal life.
This could lead to mental health issues and fatigue, ultimately building up hypertension. Take good care of yourself to avoid it. As explained previously, you need to reserve enough time for sleep, exercise, and society.
11. Monitoring BP to Get Normal BP
You need to keep checking your blood pressure regularly. It is good to have a blood pressure machine (sphygmomanometer) at home. The blood pressure measurement performed at the clinic might be higher (or false normal) than that performed at home.
A higher measurement at the clinic than at home is due to the white-coat effect, where the false normal is known as masked hypertension (Cedars-Sinai webpage, accessed on 26 July 2022). Both masked hypertension and whitecoat hypertension can put individuals at high risk of cardiovascular diseases.
We have written a blog post to help you learn how to measure blood pressure properly in 3 easy steps.
It is good to keep a diary and monitor your blood pressure daily. You can track your blood pressure before and after an exercise, or around the use of certain drinks or food. That way, you can identify what causes your normal blood pressure to disrupt.
12. Health Support
All the above lifestyle changes listed above are helpful; however, you may need professional assistance sometimes. Especially if you have another health condition (kidney disorders, diabetes, pregnancy), it would be wise to consult a healthcare provider.
You should not merely rely on the above methods if you are not able to maintain normal blood pressure. Screening and diagnostic testing are often helpful in identifying (or ruling out) reasons behind hypertension.
Take care of yourself and your loved ones. Feel free to share your experience in the comments section below.
Last Updated on 10 months by Shahbaz Ahmed