Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (HBP), also known as hypertension, happens when your heart uses too much pressure to pump blood through your body. It also can happen when your arteries are too tightly constricted. High blood pressure is serious because it can often lead to heart disease, kidney failure, stroke and other health problems.

A blood pressure check is performed by wrapping a cuff around your arm, inflating it and measuring when the blood flows. The test can be done by a person (using a stethoscope), or by machines. The test measures the amount of force your heart uses to pump blood through your body. Testing your blood pressure regularly is important because HBP is painless and shows no symptoms. You can have it for years and not know it until you have serious damage to your heart, kidneys or eyes.

When you get your blood pressure checked, your results will include two numbers. The "top number" is your systolic pressure, or the pressure your heart exerts while pumping blood. The "bottom number" is your diastolic pressure, or the pressure your heart exerts when it is at rest between beats.

Results for adults fall into the following groups:

 Systolic (mmHg) Diastolic (mmHg)


Less than 120 mmHg


Less than 80 mmHg


120–139 mmHg


80–89 mmHg

High Blood Pressure

Stage 1

140–159 mmHg


90–99 mmHg

Stage 2

160 mmHg or higher


100 mmHg or higher

Your systolic and diastolic pressures can fall into different groups. In this case you would fall into the more serious group of the two.

If you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure is defined as 130/80 millimeters (mm) of mercury or higher. HBP numbers also differ for children and teens.


Log in to your Blue Access® for Members account to learn more about hypertension and other heart health matters.

User ID:
Not registered?
Learn how to register
Take a tour