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Healthy blood pressure by age

In partnership with Dr Hamish Black

Blood pressure is a key indicator of health.

Young woman wearing a blue singlet top laughing while looking at her phone in the loungeroom
Young woman wearing a blue singlet top laughing while looking at her phone in the loungeroom

You’ve no doubt had your blood pressure taken before ­– it’s when a doctor or health professional wraps a cuff around your arm and inflates it. The gauge attached measures the pressure of the blood on the artery walls as your heart pumps blood around your body.

You’ll be given two numbers that form your blood pressure reading. The first and highest (systolic) refers to when the heart is squeezing blood into the arteries. The second refers to the lower reading (diastolic) when the heart is relaxed.

But, with one in five Australians recording high blood pressure, how does your reading measure up?

At nib, we consider ourselves your health partner, working with the experts to give you the tools to live your healthiest life yet. So, we spoke to nib Medical Advisor Dr Hamish Black to find out what your blood pressure means and how it changes as you get older.

What is normal blood pressure by age?

Identifying a normal blood pressure by age is quite complex, says Hamish.

This is because your ideal blood pressure is based on a range of factors, including your overall health. But generally speaking most doctors would define a healthy blood pressure as higher than 90/60 and lower than 140/90.

Hamish notes that blood pressure usually rises with age. For example, normal blood
pressure for a five-year-old is around 105/65 and rises to 125/80 for a 15-year-old.

What is high blood pressure?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines high blood pressure – known medically as hypertension ­– as a reading above 140/90.

“The main problem with hypertension is the damage this will do to the heart and blood vessels in the kidneys and brain,” Hamish says.

Hypertension is a major risk factor for chronic conditions, including stroke coronary heart disease, heart failure and chronic kidney disease.

Young woman measuring her blood pressure with an at-home device

What is the cause of high blood pressure?

For most of us, hypertension is due to genetic and environmental reasons.

“The risk factors for primary hypertension include increased age, obesity,
family history, a high-sodium (salt) diet, excessive alcohol, physical inactivity and poor sleep,” Hamish says.

However, there are some medical conditions, such as kidney disease or side effects from
taking certain medications, that can also cause hypertension, Hamish adds.

What are the signs of high blood pressure?

“Most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms,” Hamish notes.

Given this, you should get your blood pressure checked regularly – ask your doctor how often. This is especially important if you’ve previously had hypertension or cardiovascular disease, such as a stroke or heart attack, or have a family history of these conditions.

How to lower your blood pressure

Your doctor may give you medication to manage your blood pressure, but lifestyle changes can make a big difference.

Hamish’s top tips are:

  • Reduce salt intake to less than 5g (one teaspoon) a day  

  • Eat five serves of vegetables and two of fruit a day

  • Reduce saturated and total fat intake

  • Limit alcohol to no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than four standard drinks in one day

  • Maintain a BMI between 18.5 and 25     

  • Quit tobacco and nicotine products

  • Manage stress in a healthy way

  • Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderately vigorous exercise (ideally over three sessions) and at least 60 minutes a week of resistance exercise

  • Ensure infants and children have a healthy diet

What is low blood pressure?

Most doctors would consider a reading lower than 90/60 to be low blood pressure ­– medically known as hypotension. Symptoms can include feeling dizzy, weak, light-headed or clammy.

The most serious problem with low blood pressure is when not enough oxygen gets to the tissues. This is called “shock” and is associated with organ failure and symptoms, such as confusion or poor urine output.

However, Hamish says low blood pressure isn’t a problem for everyone. “For example, some very fit individuals and pregnant women will record low blood pressure but have no symptoms that trouble them,” he explains.

Please note: The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner. 

Dr Hamish Black

Dr Hamish Black

In partnership with

Dr Hamish Black

Dr Hamish Black has been a medical practitioner for more than 25 years. In addition to his role as nib group medical advisor, he still spends two days a week practising as a GP. He has spent many years working in emergency departments and in rural Australia, including a stint with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Hamish also loves karaoke and dancing (though not that well at either, he says!), with Play that Funky Music by Wild Cherry being his karaoke favourite.