What is Borderline High Blood Pressure? Definition & Values

A borderline high blood pressure reading is between 120-129 systolic and less than 80 diastolic, known as elevated or prehypertension.

Borderline high blood pressure, often called prehypertension, means your readings are above normal but not yet high blood pressure. The first source explains, if your blood pressure is 120-129 systolic and less than 80 diastolic, it’s considered elevated. This falls under prehypertension.1 For it to be full hypertension, your readings must be 140/90 mm Hg or more.1 The second source adds, borderline high blood pressure can also be between 140-159 systolic and/or 90-94 diastolic.2 It’s worth mentioning, readings from cuffs might differ slightly from direct measurements. They could be 2 mmHg lower in systolic pressure and 2 mmHg higher in diastolic pressure.2

Key Takeaways

  • Borderline high blood pressure, or prehypertension, starts at a systolic blood pressure of 120-129 mmHg and a diastolic less than 80 mmHg.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) begins at 140/90 mmHg.
  • It’s a step closer to high blood pressure and increases your heart disease and stroke risk.
  • Managing it often starts with changing your diet, exercising, and controlling your weight.
  • It’s crucial to keep checking your blood pressure to stop it from getting worse.

Understanding Blood Pressure Levels

It’s key to know about blood pressure levels for heart health. The are important. Here’s how they measure up:

Normal Blood Pressure Range

For normal blood pressure, aim for under 120/80 mmHg.1

Elevated Blood Pressure Range

When it gets higher, it’s considered elevated. This means 120-129 mmHg for the upper number and under 80 mmHg for the lower number.12

Hypertension Stage 1 Range

Stage I hypertension involves higher numbers. It’s 130-139 mmHg at the top and 80-89 mmHg at the bottom.12

Hypertension Stage 2 Range

When the numbers are even higher, it becomes Stage II hypertension. This starts at a top number of 140 mmHg or higher. And the bottom number is 90 mmHg or more.12

Hypertensive Crisis Range

At a hypertensive crisis, numbers are alarmingly high. A top number over 180 mmHg or a bottom number over 120 mmHg qualifies.12

Knowing the and helps keep your heart in shape. It’s vital for dealing with high blood pressure effectively.

What is Borderline High Blood Pressure?

Borderline high blood pressure, or prehypertension, happens when the top number is 120-129 mm Hg. The bottom number is less than 80.3 It’s above normal but not quite hypertension yet. This situation increases the chance of getting full hypertension. It also raises the risk of heart disease and stroke.3

If your blood pressure is normal or slightly high, you’re more likely to develop hypertension. This happens when your heart has to pump blood too forcefully, which can damage your arteries.3 High normal levels are between 130-140 over 80-90. These can also up your chances of having a stroke or heart issues.3

Blood Pressure RangeSystolic (top number)Diastolic (bottom number)
NormalLess than 120 mm HgLess than 80 mm Hg
Elevated (Prehypertension)120-129 mm HgLess than 80 mm Hg
Hypertension Stage 1130-139 mm Hg80-89 mm Hg
Hypertension Stage 2140 mm Hg or higher90 mm Hg or higher
Hypertensive CrisisHigher than 180 mm HgHigher than 120 mm Hg

Blood pressure is written as millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and should be under 130/80 mm Hg to be healthy.4 The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have divided blood pressure into Normal, Elevated, Stage 1 Hypertension, and Stage 2 Hypertension categories.4 A reading over 180/120 mm Hg means a health emergency.4

Blood Pressure Measurement Techniques

The blood pressure measurement commonly done is the cuff method. This method uses a cuff that’s filled with air to briefly stop blood flow in an arm or leg. It then detects the blood pressure through movement or sound, such as Korotkoff sounds.5 Many things can affect blood pressure readings, from breathing to what you’ve eaten.5

Conventional Cuff Method

The cuff method shows measurements very close to direct measurements, around +/- 4 mmHg. Yet, blood pressure is not always the same and can change with just breathing. This is why multiple readings might be needed, especially for those on the edge of high blood pressure.25

Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring

Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring gives a fuller look at blood pressure over a day and night. You wear a portable monitor that checks your blood pressure many times without you or the doctor having to remember.5 This way, it can catch changes that are missed during one-time checks.5

Factors Contributing to Borderline High Blood Pressure

As we get older, our systolic blood pressure often goes up. This is because our bigger arteries get stiff and we gather more plaque. These changes can raise our risk of heart and blood vessel diseases.4 Health problems can also make borderline high blood pressure more likely.

Age and Arterial Stiffness

When people age, systolic blood pressure can rise. This happens as our large arteries get less flexible and more plaque sticks around. It all adds up to a bigger chance of heart and blood vessel issues.

Plaque Buildup in Arteries

Plaque buildup in the arteries leads to atherosclerosis and possibly higher blood pressure. As our arteries narrow and stiffen, the heart has to put in more effort. This effort causes our blood pressure to rise.

See also  How Much TMG Should I Take for High Blood Pressure?

Underlying Health Conditions

Some health issues like kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea can up the risk of borderline high blood pressure.4 These problems can directly or indirectly mess with our blood pressure control. It becomes harder to keep the pressure at healthy levels.

Risks Associated with Borderline High Blood Pressure

Borderline high blood pressure is risky, known as prehypertension. It can lead to worse health problems in the future. These include a higher chance of getting full4 hypertension, heart issues6, and6 strokes, especially if it’s not managed well.

Increased Risk of Developing Hypertension

If your blood pressure is between 120-129 over 80-89, you’re at risk. This stage is called borderline high blood pressure4. It could get worse, leading to full hypertension. This is major because it increases your chances of heart problems.

Cardiovascular Disease Risk

Having borderline high blood pressure means you have a higher risk for heart diseases6. The body reacts more to stress if you have borderline features. This can harm the heart and blood vessels over time4.

Stroke Risk

There’s also a bigger chance of getting a stroke with borderline high blood pressure6. A study showed a direct link between this and strokes6. It’s key to manage this early to avoid these severe health problems.

Managing Borderline High Blood Pressure

Dealing with borderline high blood pressure, or prehypertension, is key. Lifestyle changes work best.3 It’s about tackling what’s behind the high blood pressure. This can stop it from getting worse.

Lifestyle Changes

To lower borderline high blood pressure, lifestyle tweaks are crucial. Start by moving more, eating better, and keeping a good weight.3 These steps cut the chance of getting full hypertension and heart problems.

Exercise and Physical Activity

Working out and being active really help.3 A mix of exercise and healthy eating can fight off diabetes. It also improves how the body handles sugar. Doing at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week, or more, is great for your heart and blood pressure.

Dietary Modifications

Eating less salt is vital for borderline high blood pressure.7 The DASH diet, full of fresh fruit, veg, and low-fat dairy, is a win. It can stop or lower high blood pressure.7 Plus, boosting your meals with potassium can also drop your blood pressure.7

Focusing on these changes helps manage borderline high blood pressure. It cuts the risk of worse health and boosts the heart’s well-being.

DASH Eating Plan for Blood Pressure Control

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Eating Plan is a type of Mediterranean diet.8 It focuses on eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. It’s known for reducing high blood pressure just as well as some medicines do.8

It’s important to cut back on how much salt you eat under the DASH diet. Depending on your health and other factors, you might aim for 2,300 or 1,500 milligrams a day.9 You should also eat plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low- to no-fat dairy every day.98

When it comes to protein, you should eat only small to moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry, and fish. Try to have no more than two servings in a day.8 Nuts, legumes, and seeds are good too. It’s okay to have them up to five times a week.9 Keep an eye on your fats and oils, limiting them to just 2-3 servings daily. And enjoy sweets in moderation, aiming for five or fewer servings a week.9

The DASH Eating Plan is especially helpful for African Americans and people with high blood pressure.10 It can really make a difference in managing blood pressure control. This diet also focuses on foods rich in potassium, which is good for blood pressure. Think things like potatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas, and spinach.9

Following the DASH diet is a smart move for those with borderline high blood pressure or DASH diet. It can prevent hypertension from getting worse. And it lowers your risks of heart disease and stroke.108

Importance of Potassium Intake

Keeping up with potassium intake is key in dealing with borderline high blood pressure. We should aim for 4,700 mg of potassium daily. But, the average American only gets 2,723 mg.11 A higher potassium intake means lower blood pressure, as proven back in the 1980s and 1990s. Studies found a link between eating more potassium and less hypertension.11 The Intersalt Study also found that more potassium in urine meant lower blood pressure, even after considering other factors.11

Eating more potassium-rich foods like cantaloupe, bananas, and orange juice can manage borderline high blood pressure.11 Evidence from tests, studies, and clinical cases supports the idea that potassium fights hypertension and atherosclerosis.

In Holland, a study found that adding a mix of sodium and potassium chloride to food lowered blood pressure in old people, both with and without hypertension.12

See also  Why Can't You Donate Plasma with High Blood Pressure?

The DASH study showed that a diet full of fruits and veggies, which are packed with potassium, can significantly lower blood pressure. This benefit was clear in adults with only mildly high blood pressure.12 More dietary potassium intake could also reduce stroke risk. It has its own positive effects on blood pressure.12

Overall, it seems we could all use less salt and more potassium, especially those with high blood pressure.12 Choosing foods high in potassium helps people with borderline high blood pressure take control. It lowers the chance of getting full hypertension.11

Impact of Smoking on Blood Pressure

Smoking significantly raises blood pressure and heart risks.13 In the Health Survey for England, smoking tied to higher blood pressure was noted.13 Even light smoking and how deeply you inhale link to heart attack and death risk, as per The Copenhagen City Heart Study with 12,149 participants over 22 years.13

A 2005 study in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing underlined smoking’s effect on blood pressure.13 Quitting smoking reduces blood pressure, lowering hypertension risk, as shown in a Hypertension journal’s 4-year study.13

Men’s hypertension risk from smoking was explained in a Journal of Hypertension article.13 It listed factors like inflammation, belly fat, and smoking as high blood pressure signs.13

The Hypertension Optimal Treatment Study examined smoking’s individual impact on heart disease in those with high blood pressure.13 Also, a 2013 European Heart Journal paper stressed smoking’s role in raising heart risks for those with high blood pressure and diabetes.13

Quitting smoking is crucial. It cuts the top cause of early deaths in the U.S. and lessens high blood pressure risks.

Regular Blood Pressure Monitoring

It’s important to check your blood pressure often. This can help you keep borderline high blood pressure in check. It also prevents hypertension from developing.2 Wait five minutes after the first check before a retest, as advised by experts. If your numbers are still high, see your doctor right away.2 Keeping an eye on your blood pressure regularly is key in avoiding big problems.

Starting at 18, it’s smart to get your blood pressure checked every two years.4 A reading of 130/80 mm Hg or more is high and shows hypertension.4 Ideal blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg or lower.4 If it’s between 120 to 129 mm Hg on the top and under 80 mm Hg on the bottom, that’s elevated.4 Checking often allows for quick action when needed.

The second source points out that not keeping your blood pressure in check can harm your body.4 So, make sure you have regular checks and follow your doctor’s advice. This is crucial for managing borderline high blood pressure and lowering health risks.

Medication for Borderline High Blood Pressure

If you have hypertension Stage 1, your doctor might first suggest lifestyle changes. They could also consider adding [blood pressure medication] if you’re at risk of heart issues or strokes.3 On the other hand, if you have conditions like diabetes, heart failure, or kidney disease, you may need [blood pressure medication] right away.3 For those in Stage 2, your healthcare provider will likely start you on [blood pressure medication] and suggest adjustments to your daily habits.3

If your blood pressure is often over 140/90mmHg (or 135/85mmHg when measured at home and you’re under 80), changes in your lifestyle may be needed. Additionally, you might have to start [blood pressure medication].14 If your blood pressure stays high at 160/100mmHg or more, you will probably be given [blood pressure medication]. This will go hand in hand with making changes in how you live.14

If you’re under 55 or have type 2 diabetes, ACE inhibitors or angiotensin-2 receptor blockers could be right for you.14 On the flip side, if you’re 55 or more, or from an African or Caribbean background but don’t have diabetes, calcium channel blockers may be your best bet for controlling your blood pressure.14

Doctors can prescribe beta blockers like atenolol and bisoprolol to help lower your blood pressure. They work by slowing down your heart rate and lessening its power.14 These medications might cause a dry cough to stick around, make you feel dizzy, give you a headache, or cause a rash. You might also have some cold or flu-like symptoms, swollen ankles, struggle with going to the bathroom, feel excessively thirsty, or see changes in your potassium and sodium levels.14

To lower your high blood pressure, your lifestyle must also change. This includes eating less salt, sticking to a healthy diet, exercising more, cutting back on alcohol and caffeine, losing weight, and quitting smoking.14

What is borderline high blood pressure

Borderline high blood pressure is called prehypertension. It means your systolic blood pressure is 120-129 mmHg and the diastolic is less than 80 mmHg.3 This range is higher than normal but lower than hypertension Stage 1.2

See also  High Blood Pressure After COVID: How Long Does It Last?

If you have this, your risk of getting high blood pressure in the future rises. You’re also more likely to suffer from heart diseases and strokes.

Risk Factors for Borderline High Blood Pressure

Borderline high blood pressure is also called prehypertension. It’s a serious condition that can turn into full high blood pressure if not taken care of.2

Obesity and Weight Gain

Being overweight makes your heart work harder. This means your blood pressure might go up.4 Plus, you’re more likely to have heart problems.4

Sedentary Lifestyle

Not getting enough exercise can make your blood pressure rise.4 If you don’t move enough, you might gain weight. This makes things worse. To help, try to stay active.

Unhealthy Diet

Eating too much salt and not enough fruits and veggies is bad for your blood pressure.15 The American Heart Association says we should eat less than 1,500 milligrams of salt a day. This can lower our blood pressure.15

To lower the risk, try to be a healthy weight and move more. It’s also good to eat foods that are not high in salt. These steps can stop prehypertension from getting worse and cut the chance of heart problems.

Preventing Progression to Hypertension

Your blood pressure might be normal now, but you could still face hypertension later.16 In the US, over 30% of adults have prehypertension.16 To stop it from getting worse, eat healthy, be more active, and keep a good weight.

In Malaysia, a national study found that systolic blood pressure averaged 127.1 mmHg.16 And diastolic pressure averaged 80.7 mmHg.16 These numbers show why fighting prehypertension is crucial – nearly 40% of those with prehypertension may get hypertension.16 It also found that signs of inflammation were higher in prehypertensive people.

A global study focusing on stroke risk showed that every 20 mm Hg rise in blood pressure doubles stroke mortality risk.16 The same risk area is highlighted by a study linking serum uric acid to microalbuminuria in prehypertensive patients.16

Losing weight can help. A review suggested it could drop systolic pressure by almost 4 mmHg.16 It also underlined the benefits of shedding weight long-term and cutting back on salt to avoid hypertension.16


Borderline high blood pressure falls between normal and hypertension Stage 1 readings.17 It’s not full hypertension, but the risk of future hypertension is higher. So is the risk of heart issues and stroke.17 Yet, you can prevent it from worsening. Changing your diet, being more active, and staying at a healthy weight can help.

It’s key to check your blood pressure often and talk to a doctor. Together, you can lower the risks. Managing early signs means a better chance of avoiding serious heart problems. With the right steps, keeping your blood pressure in check means a healthier, longer life.


What is borderline high blood pressure?

Borderline high blood pressure, or prehypertension, means your numbers are slightly high. Your systolic blood pressure falls from 120 to 129 mmHg. And the diastolic, below 80 mmHg. This is not as high as Stage 1 hypertension, but it’s a warning sign.

What are the different blood pressure ranges?

The ranges go like this:– Normal: Less than 120/80 mmHg– Elevated: 120-129 for systolic and less than 80 for diastolic– Hypertension Stage 1: 130-139 or 80-89– Hypertension Stage 2: 140 or higher and/or 90 or higher– Hypertensive Crisis: Over 180/120 mmHg

How is blood pressure measured?

Doctors use a cuff around your arm to check your blood pressure. It gives a range that’s pretty close to the actual pressure. They take it a few times because your blood pressure can change. This often happens when you breathe in and out.

What factors contribute to borderline high blood pressure?

Things like being overweight, not moving enough, and eating too much salt are big reasons. Also, not having enough foods with potassium can raise your risk.

What are the risks associated with borderline high blood pressure?

If you have borderline high blood pressure, you’re more likely to get really high blood pressure. This can bring heart problems and stroke closer.

How can borderline high blood pressure be managed?

It’s important to change how you live. This means:– Moving more and getting active– Eating less salt, maybe by trying the DASH plan– Adding more potassium-rich foods to your meals

How can the progression from borderline high blood pressure to hypertension be prevented?

To stop from getting worse, eat healthy, exercise, and keep a good weight. Always check your blood pressure. Make sure to see your doctor to help and lower the risks.

Source Links

  1. https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/diastolic-and-systolic-blood-pressure-know-your-numbers
  2. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/understanding-blood-pressure-readings
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/borderline-hypertension
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373410
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1120141/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6750323/
  7. https://www.brownandtoland.com/blog/managing-borderline-hypertension-without-drugs/
  8. https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/high-blood-pressure-diet
  9. https://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/ss/slideshow-dash-diet
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5439361/
  11. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0270929513000570
  12. https://academic.oup.com/ajh/article-pdf/12/8/849/240632/12_8_849.pdf
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4747988/
  14. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/treatment/
  15. https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/prehypertension-risks
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4170307/
  17. https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/72079/j.0954-6820.1980.tb01235.x.pdf?sequence=1