Understanding Prehypertension: Know Your Risk For HBD

African American nurse taking woman's blood pressurePrehypertension identifies people at risk of developing chronic high blood pressure if they don’t take steps to improve their lifestyle habits. Someone who ends up with full-blown high blood pressure may, in time, develop heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, or dementia. And may have to stay on prescription drugs for life.

The “prehypertension” numbers to remember are 120 over 80 up to 139 over 89. That reading should be seen as a yellow light. According to guidelines issued by the federal government, those numbers signal the presence of prehypertension.

Checking the pressure

For healthy adults, starting at age 18, blood pressure should be measured every year. More often if you have abnormal readings. Regular blood pressure checks are important because you can feel perfectly healthy yet still have an elevated level.

A reading of 120 over 80 is where prehypertension begins, and 140 over 90 is where hypertension begins for most adults. When the top (systolic) number is between 120 and 139, and/or the bottom (diastolic) number is between 80 and 89, your reading is in the prehypertension range. For people older than age 50, the systolic reading is more important.