Blood pressure almost always increases with age as your artery walls become less elastic. Interestingly, while this is true of your systolic blood pressure (upper figure) although your diastolic blood pressure (lower figure) tends to increase until around the age of 55 to 60, and may then start to fall slightly. The blood pressure age chart below shows how systolic pressure continues to rise, while diastolic starts to fall in late middle age.
Blood pressure age chart
The age-related rise in blood pressure is seen in both men and women. If you reach the age of 55 years and do not yet have high blood pressure, you still have a 90% risk of developing hypertension during your lifetime!
Average blood pressure age chart from Chobanian et al 2003.
As you can see from the blood pressure age chart above, the average blood pressure of someone aged 50 years is around 135/85 mmHg. By the age of 60 years, average blood pressure is around 140/78 mmHg and around the age of 70 average blood pressure is 145/75 mmHg. These figures are from the general US population and will include people who are already taking antihypertensive medication.
From the age of 50, having a raised systolic blood pressure that’s greater than 140 mmHg is a more important risk factor for heart disease and stroke than a raised diastolic blood pressure (lower reading). Every increase in blood pressure of 20/10 mmHg over a value of 115/75 mmHg will double your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Why blood pressure increases with age
The age-related increase in blood pressure is partly related to your genes and partly to your diet and lifestyle. Salt intake is a major factor. The Yanomami Indians of Brazil, for example, whose traditional diet provides less than 1g salt per day, have an average blood pressure of just 96/60 mmHg and only develop hypertension if they start to follow a western, salt-laden diet.
To find out more about how salt affects your blood pressure, see Why You Should Eat Less Salt.
If you have a borderline raised blood pressure, or are on antihypertensive treatment, it’s important to monitor your blood pressure regularly as hypertension is largely a silent disease. By the time you develop symptoms, some damage to your circulation has already occurred which can lead to long-term complications of having a high blood pressure.
If your blood pressure is raised, monitoring your blood pressure yourself is the key to maintaining good control.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.
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