A Quick Guide to Hypertension
Systolic blood pressure (top number)
Diastolic blood pressure (bottom number)
What you should do
Less than 120
Less than 80
Recheck blood pressure annually
Stick with a healthy lifestyle, including a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in salt, using alcohol moderately, and maintaining a healthy weight.
120 - 139
80 - 89
Recheck blood pressure within 6 months
Change health habits. If you're heavy, lose weight. Reduce salt in your diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and get more exercise. Drink alcohol only in moderation. You do not need medication at this stage if you don't have other health conditions. If you have diabetes or kidney disease, begin drug therapy if your blood pressure is above 130/80.
140 - 159
Recheck blood pressure within 4 weeks
Change your health habits and take a blood pressure drug. Many people start with one medication, but may need to go to a second or third to find a treatment that works. If you have other health conditions, you may need a different drug or an additional one.
160 - 179
100 - 109
Recheck blood pressure in 2 weeks
Seek prompt treatment
Change your health habits. It's likely that you'll need to take at least two blood pressure medications.
Note: when systolic and diastolic pressures fall into different categories, physicians rate overall blood pressure by the higher category.
For example, 150/85 mm Hg is classified as stage 1 hypertension, not prehypertension.
Source: Harvard Special Health Report (2007). Hypertension: Controlling the Silent Killer. ISBN 978-1-933812-17-5