Prehypertension is higher than normal, or elevated, blood pressure. Prehypertension readings can be between 120 and 139 for the top number and 80 to 89 for the bottom number. Elevated numbers on a few visits help providers make a diagnosis. Lifestyle changes help many people bring their blood pressure down.
Prehypertension is blood pressure that’s slightly higher than normal. A normal reading is 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) over 80 millimeters of mercury. With prehypertension, your first number can be up to 139 or your second could be up to 89.
Sometimes, healthcare providers use the word “elevated” for your blood pressure if the first number is between 120 and 129 and the second number is below 80. They may use the term “stage 1 high blood pressure” if your first number is between 130 and 139 and your second number is between 80 and 89. Prehypertension lumps these together in one category.
When your numbers reach 140/90, it’s hypertension (high blood pressure).
Yes, it’s a cause for concern. People who have prehypertension have a risk of heart failure, heart attack or stroke that’s two to three times greater than that of people who don’t. Many people with prehypertension get hypertension at some point. Several studies have found that many people with prehypertension develop hypertension within three or four years.
Prehypertension is very common. An estimated 1 in 3 people have prehypertension.
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Prehypertension doesn’t have symptoms. Checking your blood pressure is the only way to know if you have prehypertension.
People with prehypertension often have early signs (but not symptoms) of atherosclerosis. These may include:
Researchers don’t know exactly what causes high blood pressure, but they do know many of the factors that can contribute to it. Among other things, too much salt and alcohol and not enough exercise makes your blood pressure rise. More than 95% of people with high blood pressure don’t have just one cause of it. For those in the other 5%, the cause is another condition, such as:
People who are more likely to get prehypertension are those who:
If your blood pressure is higher than normal at several different appointments, your provider may diagnose you with prehypertension. They’ll measure your blood pressure during two or more visits and get an average of the numbers. To check your blood pressure, they use a painless device that inflates and then deflates a cuff around your arm.
The prehypertension range is between 120 and 139 for the first number or 80 to 89 for the second number.
Yes, prehypertension should be treated so it doesn’t get worse. Blood pressure doesn’t improve on its own.
For most people with prehypertension, treatment consists of changing their habits to lower their blood pressure. You can:
Healthcare providers can treat prehypertension with blood pressure medicines. However, a provider may only recommend medication if you have diabetes, kidney disease or cardiovascular disease. Many different types of antihypertensive medicines can lower your blood pressure. Any of these can have side effects, so let your provider know if you need to switch to a different one.
A number of factors can lead to a person developing prehypertension. You can reduce your risk of prehypertension with these habits:
A major study found that people who have prehypertension are at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke than those with lower blood pressure. Many people with prehypertension go on to develop hypertension over time, and damage from it adds up. Also, having hypertension increases your risk of kidney disease and Type 2 diabetes.
If you catch prehypertension early, you can change your daily habits and lower your risk of getting high blood pressure. This can help you lower your risk of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease as well.
You should have an annual physical (also known as a wellness visit or checkup) with your provider, but you may need to see them more often if you have prehypertension. They may want to see if changing your habits decreases your blood pressure. Because prehypertension can lead to hypertension, they’ll want to see you often enough to catch it early if that happens.
Questions you can ask your healthcare provider may include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Everyone would like to have normal blood pressure, but many people don’t. You’re not alone if you have prehypertension. The good news is that you can improve it by making some changes in how you live. Ask your healthcare provider if you need resources for bringing your weight down or stopping the use of tobacco products. Making changes now pays off in better heart health for your future self.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/06/2022.
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