Normal blood pressure for women over 50 needs more watching
I was talking to my friend Jasmine yesterday. Jasmine is generally healthy. She’s 51 years of age, and has one son. Jasmine was surprised to find out that her blood pressure was slightly elevated, but her doctor’s reaction to the matter scared her more.
Jasmine’s blood pressure was just 137/92. She was taken aback because her doctor felt that it was a big deal.
Here’s something that a lot of people are surprised to find: high blood pressure is not just an old man’s disease.
And, it’s important to know that high blood pressure affects men & women very differently.
We’ve had the 120/80 number drilled into our heads. We know that the top number should be around 120 and the bottom number should be nearabouts 80 for optimal blood pressure.
But for women in their late 40s and early 50s, even slightly elevated numbers such as: 140/90 can mean that they’re likely going to face some risks in the future.
Research and data is showing that even slightly (elevated) higher blood pressure in women in their late 40s and early 50s puts them at a much higher risk of strokes, and heart attacks later in life.
Free Mental Health & Wellness Newsletter
Written by Doctors
Now, doctors are still working on trying to figure out why exactly there’s a difference in the way high blood pressure affects men and women differently. Some working theories on this matter include the use of oral contraceptive pills (OCPs), smoking, hormonal changes, obesity, diabetes, & sleep apnea.
All of these things could increase a woman’s risk of developing high blood pressure. Another interesting theory on this is a socio-cultural one. Culturally, and through the media, we are somewhat conditioned to view high blood pressure as an older person’s disease.
So, it could be that women, for a long time, simply have not been getting their high blood pressures monitored and treated. And, because no one was looking out for this, high blood pressure gets the unabated opportunity to ravage the body of younger women.
So what can we do? In fact, there’s quite a bit that we can do to improve our blood pressure.
First, is weight loss. And, the good news here is that I’m not talking about losing 20-30 lbs of weight. A simple loss of 5 lbs can have a huge and positive impact on your blood pressure.
Second, get into the habit of sleeping well. And, find out if you have sleep apnea! You should know that high blood pressure is a common symptom of sleep apnea. And, the shocking number is that almost 90% of all women who have sleep apnea don’t know that they have it. Once again, culturally, we’re taught that snoring and sleep apnea are a man’s problem. So, if you have high blood pressure, it’s worth having a conversation with your doctor about sleep apnea.
Third: reduce stress! Take time out for yourself. Lot’s of research continues to show that taking care of our mental wellness can have huge positive impacts on our lifestyle and blood pressure. Simple things like taking a few moments to do things that we like to do, taking time to just sit and sip a tea/coffee.
In fact doing anything that does not cause us harm is good for our mental health and our blood pressure! So, as I spoke to Jasmine, it became clear that she’d be able to manage her blood pressure effectively.
The take home message I left for her was: take care of yourself! You’ve spent an entire life taking care of others–it’s time to do the same for yourself.