Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the arterial walls as it is carried from the heart to the other body organs and body tissues. If you have high blood pressure, which is called hypertension, this means that your systolic pressure is steadily at 140 or higher and your diastolic pressure is steadily 90 or higher.
Systolic and Diastolic Pressure
Systolic pressure measures the blood being pumped by the heart diastolic pressure measures the heart at rest in between beats. The higher the pressure over 120/80 the more risk a woman has of developing cardiovascular complications.
According to the Sixth Report of the Joint National Committee on the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of Hypertension, an optimal systolic pressure is less than 120 and less than 80 for diastolic pressure. Normal blood pressure is less than 130 for systolic pressure and less than 85 for diastolic. High normal is 130-139 for systolic and 85-89 for diastolic. High blood pressure would be 140-150 systolic (mild) and 90-99 diastolic (mild); 160-179 systolic (moderate) and 100-109 diastolic (moderate); 180-209 systolic (severe) and 110-119 diastolic (severe).
Women Catch Up With Men
At the age of 35, a woman will be one-third as apt to have high blood pressure as a man; however, by the time a woman is 65, she is as likely as a man to have high blood pressure, according to womentowomen.com. When estrogen levels decline in women, it appears that their arteries become less elastic and this may contribute to hypertension. Some menopausal women develop hypertension for the first time in their lives. Estrogen is believed to play an important role in modulating blood pressure. When estrogen becomes nearly depleted in a woman's older years it can no longer provide this safeguard.
Keep in mind that blood pressure will vary depending on a person's sex, weight and age. Women younger than 35 will usually have pressure that is 10 mm lower than that of a man's, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, between the age of 40 and 45, a woman's blood pressure increases faster than does that of a man the same age. Note that if you take birth control pills, there is some risk of elevated blood pressure, so get your annual check-up.
Women who are menopausal need to pay particular attention to their blood pressure. The loss of elasticity in the carotid artery discussed earlier makes it harder for the arterial wall to contract and expand with each heartbeat. This can eventually lead to an enlarged heart. The heart muscle actual grows because it is being worked hard as it tries, with difficulty, to pump blood through an arterial system that has become inelastic.
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