Robin Backlund, BHSc
A blood pressure of 138 over 81 (138/81) mmHg indicates that you are at risk of a ELEVATED BLOOD PRESSURE [PRE-HYPERTENSION], as per the latest guidelines from the American Heart Association.
While this reading doesn’t necessitate immediate hospitalization, it does prompt the need for regular monitoring and consultation with a healthcare professional.
This warning holds for all groups—children, adults, the elderly, and pregnant individuals—and if overlooked, can progress to more severe hypertension stages.
It’s important to understand that blood pressure can differ based on aspects like age, gender, weight, and overall health, with ‘normal’ levels varying based on an individual’s medical background and prevailing health conditions.
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What does a 138 over 81 (138/81) blood pressure mean?
The numbers in that blood pressure reading, let’s call it 138/81, are signaling a pretty clear message: you’re cruising into the territory of prehypertension or elevated blood pressure.
Now, prehypertension is essentially the stage where your blood pressure is hanging out in the range of 120-139 over 80-89.
Here is a blood pressure chart according to the latest guidelines of American Heart Association (AHA).
mm Hg [upper #]
mm Hg [lower #]
Less than 80
Less than 50
Less than 90
Less than 60
Less than 120
Less than 80
Less than 80
Hypertension STAGE 1
Hypertension STAGE 2
140 or higher
90 or higher
Consult your doctor immediately
Higher than 180
Higher than 120
Here’s the deal with this 138/81 reading – it’s basically waving a red flag, telling you that if you don’t start playing it smart, you’re setting yourself up for some serious heart issues and high blood pressure down the road.
A report “Prehypertension–prevalence, health risks, and management strategies” from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine published in 2015 highlights that 25-50% of adults worldwide suffer from prehypertension.
So, why should you care? Well, that’s where the rubber meets the road. You really want to make an effort to keep your blood pressure in check because it’s your ticket to avoiding future health complications.
Now, the good news is there are steps you can take and lifestyle tweaks you can make to bring that blood pressure back into the safe zone. It’s not rocket science, but it does require some commitment.
So, buckle up and get ready to take charge of your health – your heart will thank you later! Here are certain symptoms that are associated with the problem of prehypertension.
- Laziness and drowsiness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fainting and headache
- Lack of mental comprehension
- Trouble concentrating
- Weight gain
- Red spots in the eyes
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What should you do if you have 138/81 mmHg blood pressure?
Here is a set-by-step procedure to follow when you figure out you have a blood pressure of 138 over 81 mmHg.
1. Consult your doctor for accurate blood pressure reading
A trained professional has to clinically assess your condition and confirm that your 138/81 is, in fact, clinically valid.
There are instances when your reading at home setup might give you a reading which is incorrectly reported. It could be because of an error in reading it, damage to your device, your physical or mental condition on that particular day, etc.
Therefore, a doctor has to assess it over the course of 7 – 30 days periodically before he/she can confirm the accurate stage of your blood pressure.
In a study “Masked and white coat hypertension, the double trouble of large arteries: A systematic review and meta‐analysis” from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, published in 2020 in The Journal of Clinical Hypertension, Christina Antza and his team found something interesting about blood pressure readings.
Sometimes, when people are at the doctor’s office, their blood pressure reads high, but it’s normal when they check it elsewhere. They call this white coat hypertension.
On the flip side, some folks show normal readings at the doctor’s but have high readings at home or other places. This is known as masked hypertension
All these conditions are linked to physiology and psychology and, therefore, better to be validated by a doctor.
2. Adopt these lifestyle changes to regulate your blood pressure
Making definite changes in your lifestyle is sufficient to bring your blood pressure back in control or within the ideal range of blood pressure. These changes will be good enough to change your blood pressure to a better degree.
Following are the things that are to be considered when thinking of opting for a new lifestyle for yourself:
According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (CDC) guidelines, below are a few steps that you can incorporate to prevent prehypertension from affecting your life.
- Try getting adequate rest every day.
- Reduce the consumption of sodium salts.
- Support a healthy diet and exercise daily.
- Try to maintain a healthy weight.
- Quit smoking and drinking, or at least keep it in check.
- Manage your stress and anxiety.
3. Consider using medications for blood pressure management
Prehypertension can result from any medical condition or history of medical problems. Therefore, it is good to consider using medicines and prescribed drugs to keep your blood pressure in check.
A study “Treatment of prehypertension: lifestyle and/or medication. Vascular health and risk management” from Appalachian State University published in 2012 suggests that prehypertension should be addressed with non-therapeutic approaches before resorting to medication. However, individuals with chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or preexisting medical conditions might need to rely on medicines.
Following are the medicines that are prescribed to individuals who are suffering from prehypertension.
- Water Pills: these are the medicines that control the amount of sodium that is mixed in with our bloodstream. By keeping it in check, it is possible to lower blood pressure rather significantly.
- Calcium Channel Blockers: these are the chemicals that block or restrict the intermixing of calcium minerals in the bloodstream. Calcium leads to the contraction of blood vessels.
- Renin Inhibitors: Renin inhibitors are the drugs that regulate the hormones and chemicals that are released by the kidneys, which leads to an increase in blood pressure.
- Beta Blockers: these are the medicines that help in regulate the heart bests. These help in slowing down the heart rate, which in turn leads to lower pressure over the heart walls and the blood vessels.
- Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibitors: these are the chemicals that stop or restrict the formation of the compounds in the body that lead to the contraction of the blood vessels.
4. Plan a diet specifically for 138/81 blood pressure
The kind of foods that you include in your everyday diet can make a good-enough difference in your blood pressure.
Therefore, if you were to keep your eating habits in check and behave well-disciplined regarding that, you will surely be able to maintain your blood pressure accordingly.
Following are some of the points that concern your diet which should be taken into consideration.
- Sodium intake: Sodium is a mineral that leads to an elevated level of blood pressure, which causes the problem of prehypertension.
- Caffeine: most the caffeine-products are known to increase blood pressure in individuals. If you are sensitive towards the usage of caffeine products, it will be good for you to give up on those entirely.
- Keep yourself hydrated: maintain the level of liquids and body fluids that are necessary for the transport of minerals and nutrients in your body.
- Sugar: Large consumption of sugar can lead to the problem of diabetes and, by extension, the issue of high blood pressure.
- Alcohol: To a certain extent, alcohol acts as a vasodilator. This will help in the relaxation of your blood vessels, which in turn will help maintain your blood pressure.
- Potassium salts: Instead of using sodium salts that lead to an increase in blood pressure, turn towards the usage of other salts.
5. Be aware of additional health risks linked to pre-hypertension
When you are diagnosed with prehypertension, you may want to keep track of a few other comorbidities because they can either get aggravated or initiated.
A study “Prehypertension: epidemiology, consequences and treatment” published in Nature Reviews Nephrology in 2009 observed that prehypertension increases the risks of comorbidities such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, and inflammatory disorders.
Your doctor may also prescribe certain medical checkups to rule out the possibility of damage to other organs. The following are the risks most likely to be associated with hypertension.
- History of heart problems.
- Genetic hypertension.
- Improper functioning of the kidney and pancreas.
- Not following a proper diet plan.
- Increased intake of sodium salts.
6. Try natural supplements to support healthy blood pressure level
Sometimes, managing blood pressure boils down to nourishing your body with the right diet. Undoubtedly, food is the best primary source for supplementation.
However, in today’s world, our food is often adulterated, and we gravitate towards processed foods due to our fast-paced lives. These processed foods are high in sugar and sodium, lacking essential nutrients crucial for a healthy heart.
This is where nutraceutical-based blood pressure supplements come in handy. These products amalgamate all the critical nutrients your heart craves, thereby promoting better cardiovascular function.
Typically, these supplements blend herbs, plant-based ingredients, dairy, and some animal products. They are 100% organic and natural, devoid of harmful chemicals.
A study “Nutraceuticals with a clinically detectable blood pressure-lowering effect: a review of available randomized clinical trials and their meta-analyses” in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology from 2017 suggests that nutraceutical ingredients such as potassium, magnesium, L-arginine, vitamin C, cocoa flavonoids, and beetroot juice can significantly impact blood pressure.
If you’re new to these products, you can consider Blood Pressure Support from Vita Balance Inc., Blood Pressure Optimizer from HFL, or Corsanum, marketed by PLT Group.
Blood Pressure Support
Blood Pressure Optimizer
Blood Pressure Support combines hawthorn berry, olive leaf, hibiscus, and some vitamins like C, B6, B12, niacin, and folate alongside a bunch of other medicinal herbs to support the healthy working of the heart.
Blood Pressure Optimizer has MegaNatural®-BP grape seed extract and Celery3nB™ celery seed extract alongside common vitamins and minerals, which can help increase your cardiovascular elasticity.
Corsanum is a refined combination of olive, iron, and grapevine alongside regular products like coriander, hawthorn, and oregano, all of which are foods known to maintain cardiovascular health.
Just remember to carefully choose the best supplements that lower blood pressure because when it comes to your heart, there’s no room for risks.
Prehypertension isn’t a condition to take lightly. It may not warrant serious medication, but that can change swiftly.
Therefore, it’s wise to explore your best options.
Consult a physiotherapist before considering medication to make informed choices about your health.
What should you do when your blood pressure is 138/81 mmHg during pregnancy?
If your blood pressure is 138/81 during pregnancy, this falls into the range of elevated or prehypertension.
A group of Swedish scientists from Uppsala University found in their study “Prehypertension in Pregnancy and Risks of Small for Gestational Age Infant and Stillbirth” from 2016, published on Hypertension Journal, a link between prehypertension in mothers and its effect on small-for-gestational-age infants or stillbirth.
While it may not be an immediate emergency, it does warrant careful monitoring and discussion with your healthcare provider.
Elevated blood pressure can increase the risk of complications like preeclampsia during pregnancy. Your doctor may suggest lifestyle modifications or closer monitoring.
Is blood pressure 138/81 mmHg high for a men?
For men, a blood pressure of 138 over 81 mmHg is considered elevated or in the prehypertension stage.
While it’s not yet in the hypertension range, it indicates that you’re at higher risk of developing high blood pressure in the future.
Lifestyle changes and regular monitoring are generally recommended at this stage.
Is blood pressure 138/81 mmHg high for a women?
For women, a blood pressure reading of 138/81 is in the elevated or prehypertension range.
Although it’s not an immediate concern, it does indicate an increased risk for hypertension down the line.
Lifestyle changes and ongoing monitoring are generally the course of action at this point.
Is blood pressure 138/81 mmHg high for an elderly?
In the elderly, a blood pressure of 138 over 81 mmHg might be seen as slightly elevated or prehypertensive.
It’s not an immediate concern, but it’s a signal that blood pressure levels should be monitored more closely.
Lifestyle changes, and possibly medication, might be recommended based on the individual’s medical history.
Is blood pressure 138/81 mmHg high for a children?
For children, blood pressure readings are generally assessed based on age, height, and gender percentiles.
A group of researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children’s Hospital found in a study “Prehypertension in adolescents: risk and progression” published in Journal of Clinical Hypertension in 2012 that prehypertension is common in adolescents and poses a risk for future hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
A reading of 138/81 could be elevated depending on the specific percentile for the child’s age and height.
Consult a pediatrician for an accurate assessment and recommendations for monitoring or treatment.
Is blood pressure 138/81 mmHg high for an adult?
For an adult, a blood pressure of 138 over 81 mm Hg falls into the elevated or prehypertension category.
This means that you’re at a greater risk for developing hypertension in the future.
Typically, lifestyle modifications like healthier diet and increased exercise are recommended, along with regular monitoring.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is the blood pressure?
Blood pressure is a measure of the force exerted by blood against the walls of the arteries as it is pumped by the heart.
When the heart beats, usually 60 to 100 times a minute, it sends blood through arteries that distribute oxygen and nutrients to the entire body.
These arteries transport blood from the heart to various body parts, and the pressure within them naturally fluctuates throughout the day.
What do the numbers on blood pressure readings chart mean?
The numbers on the blood pressure chart are a metric that helps you determine the health of your heart.
A quick, concise and accurate judgement about your heart can be drawn based on the range, difference, and intensity of these numbers.
They are often divided into two numbers, called systolic (force of blood in your arteries when your heart beats) and diastolic (force exerted when the heart is resting between betas) measurements.
Based on these pair of numbers, the blood pressure reading is classified into seven stages.
- Very Low Blood Pressure (Severe Hypotension): Below 80/50
- Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension): 80/50 – 90/60
- Normal Blood Pressure: 91/61 – 119/79
- Pre-Hypertension (Elevated Blood Pressure): 120/80 – 139/89
- High Blood Pressure (Stage 1 Hypertension): 140/90 – 159/99
- High Blood Pressure (Stage 2 Hypertension): 160/100 – 180/120
- Hypertensive Crisis: Above 180/120
What is a normal blood pressure?
Normal blood pressure, as recommended by the American Heart Association and cited by the National Institutes of Health, falls between 90 mmHg systolic, 60 mmHg diastolic and 120 mmHg systolic, 80 mmHg diastolic.
Perfect blood pressure is a measure that indicates the optimal force of blood against the walls of our arteries, ensuring efficient circulation without undue stress on the cardiovascular system.
It’s a balance that signifies good heart health and is a benchmark against which deviations, either high or low, are gauged.
What is a prehypertension (elevated blood pressure)?
Prehypertension, also referred to as “elevated blood pressure,” is a term used when a person’s blood pressure readings are somewhat higher than the typical normal range, but not high enough to be classified as hypertension.
For a clearer understanding, a standard blood pressure reading is usually around 120/80 mmHg. In the case of prehypertension, the systolic (the first number) may be up to 139, or the diastolic (the second number) can be up to 89.
To specify further, healthcare providers might label your blood pressure as “elevated” if your systolic measurement is between 120 and 129 while the diastolic is less than 80. If the systolic is between 130 and 139 and the diastolic is between 80 and 89, they might refer to it as “stage 1 high blood pressure.”
However, the term prehypertension encompasses both these conditions. If the blood pressure reaches 140/90 mmHg or above, it is then categorized as hypertension, which means high blood pressure.
How does prehypertension (elevated blood pressure) affect blood pressure?
Prehypertension affects blood pressure and health in several notable ways. It is often characterized by blood pressure readings ranging from 120/80 mmHg to just below 140/90 mmHg.
Understanding its effects is vital for proactive management.
- Prehypertension involves blood pressure levels slightly above the normal range.
- It acts as a precursor, signaling an increased risk of developing full-blown hypertension.
- Prehypertension elevates the risk of cardiovascular diseases, kidney problems, and related health issues.
- Lifestyle modifications such as dietary changes, regular exercise, and stress reduction are essential for managing prehypertension.
- Medication may sometimes be needed for individuals with specific risk factors or severe prehypertension.
What are the symptoms of prehypertension (elevated blood pressure)?
Symptoms of prehypertension can be subtle, but they serve as early indicators of this condition, often a precursor to stage 1 hypertension.
You may need to visit your doctor for a clinical confirmation of prehypertension; however, the following symptoms can provide valuable insights into your cardiac health.
- Elevated Blood Pressure: Blood pressure readings typically range from 120/80 mmHg to just below 140/90 mmHg.
- Occasional Headaches: Some individuals experience occasional headaches.
- Dizziness: Might feel less conscious or feel trippy most of the time.
- Fatigue: Feeling tired more often than usual.
- Difficulty Sleeping: Problems falling or staying asleep may be associated.
- Nosebleeds: Occasional nosebleeds can occur in individuals with prehypertension.
What are the risk factors of prehypertension (elevated blood pressure)?
Risk factors of prehypertension majorly depend on comorbidities and preexisting cardiovascular diseases.
However, other factors can increase the likelihood of developing this condition, which can progress to hypertension and pose health risks.
Here are key risk factors.
- Family History: A family history of hypertension can increase the risk.
- Age: Prehypertension becomes more common as people age.
- Diet: A high-sodium, low-potassium diet can contribute.
- Obesity: Excess body weight, especially around the waist, is a significant risk.
- Physical Inactivity: A sedentary lifestyle can raise the risk.
- Smoking: Tobacco use can increase blood pressure.
- Excessive Alcohol: Consuming too much alcohol can be a risk factor.
- Stress: Chronic stress can impact blood pressure regulation.
- Other Medical Conditions: Conditions like diabetes or kidney disease can contribute to prehypertension.
What are the causes of prehypertension (elevated blood pressure)?
The causes of prehypertension are multifactorial, often stemming from a combination of lifestyle choices, genetics, and underlying health conditions.
Understanding these causes is crucial for prevention and management.
Here are the key contributors:
- Unhealthy Diet: Excessive salt intake, low potassium consumption, and high saturated fat intake.
- Lack of Physical Activity: Sedentary lifestyles and insufficient exercise.
- Obesity: Excess body weight, particularly around the waistline.
- Stress: Chronic stress can impact blood pressure regulation.
- Genetics: Family history of hypertension.
- Age: Prehypertension becomes more common with age.
- Other Health Conditions: Diabetes, kidney disease, and certain medications can be factors.
How is prehypertension (elevated blood pressure) diagnosed?
Diagnosing prehypertension involves assessing an individual’s blood pressure readings and considering various factors.
Here’s how prehypertension is diagnosed.
- Blood Pressure Measurement: Blood pressure is measured using a sphygmomanometer.
- Multiple Readings: Multiple readings are taken on different occasions to rule out isolated high readings.
- Criteria: Prehypertension is typically defined as blood pressure readings ranging from 120/80 mmHg to just below 140/90 mmHg.
- Clinical Evaluation: A healthcare professional evaluates the patient’s medical history and conducts a physical examination.
- Lab Tests: Additional tests may be ordered to assess for underlying conditions or risk factors contributing to prehypertension.
How to check blood pressure at home?
Checking blood pressure at home is a straightforward process with the right equipment and technique.
Regular monitoring provides valuable insights into one’s cardiovascular health and helps in early detection of potential issues.
- Acquire a digital blood pressure monitor from a reputable brand.
- Sit comfortably in a quiet room, resting for about five minutes before taking a reading.
- Place the cuff on the upper arm, ensuring it’s neither too tight nor too loose.
- Keep the arm at heart level, resting it on a table or armrest.
- Turn on the monitor and follow the device’s instructions to start the measurement.
- Remain still and silent during the process.
- Record the reading, noting both the systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) values.
- It’s advisable to take readings at the same time each day and maintain a log for reference during medical consultations.
Which is the best and accurate blood pressure monitor to use at home?
Finding the best blood pressure monitor in today’s internet market flooded with technology is a challenging task.
While you may find cheap options online, the reproducibility of results is a big question mark. This could sometimes mean life or death, and that’s why you need a clinically valid product that is no less than smart!
The three best recommendations from the internet are below.
The Oxiline Pressure X Pro is an accurate at-home blood pressure monitor powered by a superior VIBRA TX sensor and boasts a user-friendly interface. It logs readings automatically, syncs with Apple and Android devices, and offers a lifetime warranty.
The CheckMe BP2 is a compact blood pressure monitor with EKG capabilities. It pairs with the ViHealth App, offering BP and EKG readings in 30 seconds. Features include an OLED screen, Bluetooth, and AI-ECG detection of irregular heart conditions. A reliable and efficient heart health tool.
The QardioArm is an intuitive at-home blood pressure monitor compatible with iOS and Android. It is a sleek and lightweight product with superior energy efficiency. It offers clear readings, visualizes data on a color-coded app graph, and stores historical data.
What are the treatments for prehypertension (elevated blood pressure)?
Treatment options for prehypertension aim to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of progressing to hypertension and related health issues.
Here are key treatments.
- Lifestyle Modifications:
- Dietary Changes: Reducing sodium intake, adopting the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), and increasing potassium-rich foods.
- Regular Exercise: Engaging in physical activity like brisk walking or cycling.
- Weight Management: Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
- Stress Reduction: Practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga.
- Limiting Alcohol: Reducing alcohol consumption.
- Medications: In some cases, healthcare professionals may prescribe medications, particularly for individuals with specific risk factors or severe prehypertension. The choice of medication depends on individual health factors and needs.
- Regular Monitoring: Routine blood pressure checks to assess progress and ensure effective management.
- Addressing Comorbidities: Managing underlying health conditions like diabetes or kidney disease.
- Consultation: Consultation with a healthcare provider to determine the most suitable treatment plan based on individual health and risk factors.
How to treat prehypertension (elevated blood pressure) at home?
Treating prehypertension at home is achievable through a combination of lifestyle changes and mindful practices.
Here’s how you can effectively manage prehypertension from the comfort of your home.
- Meditation for Stress Reduction: Incorporate daily meditation sessions to reduce stress levels, which can contribute to elevated blood pressure.
- Dietary Changes: Adopt a raw diet, consciously avoiding excessive carbohydrates and high-sodium foods.
- Stair Climbing and Descending: Make a conscious effort to use stairs instead of elevators or escalators, which provide physical activity and help maintain cardiovascular health.
- Active Commuting: Whenever feasible, opt for walking or cycling as your mode of transportation to work, promoting regular exercise.
- Meal Quantity and Timing: Reduce portion sizes and establish a consistent eating schedule to control calorie intake.
- Quality Sleep: Prioritize a consistent 8-hour sleep schedule, promoting better overall health and blood pressure regulation.
- Regular Blood Pressure Monitoring: Use a reliable blood pressure monitoring device for routine checks and to track progress.
- Optimize Lifestyle: Embrace a holistic approach to life, which includes stress reduction, dietary changes, physical activity, and consistent monitoring to effectively manage prehypertension at home.
What are the dangers of prehypertension (elevated blood pressure)?
Dangers of prehypertension can have serious health implications, underscoring the importance of early management.
Here are potential complications associated with prehypertension:.
- Prehypertension can escalate to full-blown hypertension if not controlled.
- It raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.
- Over time, prehypertension can lead to damage in organs like the heart, kidneys, and blood vessels.
- The risk of stroke is heightened in individuals with untreated prehypertension.
- Prehypertension is linked to kidney problems, including kidney disease.
- It may contribute to eye problems like retinopathy.
- Some studies suggest a connection between prehypertension and cognitive decline.
- Prehypertension can worsen other health conditions like diabetes.
- Untreated prehypertension can lead to a shorter lifespan due to its impact on overall health.
Proactive management and lifestyle changes are crucial to mitigate these potential complications. Regular monitoring and consultation with a healthcare provider are essential for individuals with prehypertension.
How to prevent a prehypertension (elevated blood pressure)?
Preventing prehypertension involves proactive steps and lifestyle adjustments.
Here are additional strategies to help prevent prehypertension.
- Adequate Sleep: Prioritize getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.
- Hydration: Ensure proper hydration by drinking an adequate amount of water.
- Mindful Eating: Pay attention to portion sizes and mindful eating, avoiding overconsumption.
- Limit Caffeine: Reduce caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and evening.
- Herbal Supplements: Consider herbal supplements like hibiscus tea, which may have blood pressure-lowering properties.
- Regular Health Screenings: Besides blood pressure checks, undergo regular screenings for related conditions like diabetes and kidney function.
- Support Groups: Join support groups or engage in activities that promote mental and emotional well-being, reducing stress.
These strategies, combined with those mentioned earlier, contribute to a comprehensive approach for preventing prehypertension.
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Wikström, A. K., Gunnarsdottir, J., Nelander, M., Simic, M., Stephansson, O., & Cnattingius, S. (2016). Prehypertension in Pregnancy and Risks of Small for Gestational Age Infant and Stillbirth. Hypertension, 67(3), 640–646. https://doi.org/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.115.06752
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