High blood pressure is known as the silent killer, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), because it usually has no symptoms. A normal blood pressure should be 120/80. If it is more than 140/90, you are in the high-risk group and should consult your doctor. A single reading showing an elevation does not mean you have high blood pressure, but it is a sign that you need to watch it carefully. According to the AHA, having untreated high blood pressure increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.

Categorizing Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure Category Systolic mm Hg
(upper #)
  Diastolic mm Hg
(lower #)


less than 120


less than 80


120 - 129


less than 80

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 1

130 - 139


80 - 89

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 2

140 or higher


90 or higher

*This chart reflects blood pressure categories defined by the American Heart Association.

Causes and Risk Factors of High Blood Pressure

According to the NHS, 1 in every 20 cases of hypertension is caused by an underlying medical condition - however, many causes are unknown.

Risk Factors

A number of risk factors can increase the prevalence of hypertension:

  • Being over the age of 60
  • Ethnicity - some ethnic groups are more prone to hypertension than others
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Tobacco and alcohol abuse
  • Men are more prone to high blood pressure at a younger age while the prevalence is higher in older women


Other causes of hypertension may be attributed to:

  • Family history
  • Poorly managed stressed
  • Lack of physical activity or exercise
  • A salt-rich diet
  • Low-potassium diet
  • A diet composed of fatty or processed foods
  • Alcohol use
  • Tobacco use

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

Hypertension is often known as "the silent killer," as many people do not notice any symptoms. 

Regularly checking your blood pressure is key.

Finding Treatment

If your blood pressure meets any of the following criteria, it is time to discuss treatment options with your doctor. High blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease, as well as many other heart conditions.

  • Is 120/80 - 139/89 mm Hg (prehypertension)
  • Is 140/90 mm Hg or higher (high blood pressure)
  • Has been deemed high by a health care professional

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