Updated: Dec 18th, 2020
High blood pressure (“hypertension“) is largely treatable with lifestyle and medications, but only slightly over half of women with high blood pressure have their condition under control says a recent study from the American Heart Association (ADA). So what is normal blood pressure for women?
You can work to stay healthy by monitoring your numbers, considering healthy lifestyle changes, and following your doctor’s orders. Health tools such as Lark, which is provided free of charge by many health plans and includes guidance on blood pressure reduction and free tools to track it at home, can help you.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
Hypertension is higher-than-normal pressure in your blood vessels, as defined by the Mayo Clinic. The pressure is measured as the force of the blood against the wall of your blood vessels, usually your arteries, which carry oxygenated blood to your body organs and tissues.
Your blood pressure monitor will show your reading as two numbers. The top number is the systolic blood pressure (SBP). It reflects blood pressure when the heart is contracting, and is the higher of the two numbers. The bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure (DBP). It reflects blood pressure when the heart is relaxing, and is the lower of the two numbers.
These are the standard classifications for normal and high blood pressure.
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|Normal blood pressure||90/60 to under 120/80 mm Hg.|
|Prehypertension, or risk for hypertension||120-139/80-89 mm Hg|
|Stage 1 hypertension||140-159/90-99 mm Hg.|
|Stage 2 hypertension||over 160/100 mm Hg.|
If your systolic pressure and diastolic pressure are in two different categories, doctors consider the number that is in the higher category. For example, if your blood pressure is 135/91, your systolic blood pressure is in the prehypertensive range and your diastolic blood pressure is in the range of Stage 1 hypertension. Your measurement or 135/91 would place you in the category of Stage 1 hypertension.
Here is a chart to help you read your results:
|Systolic Blood Pressure (SBP)||Diastolic Blood Pressure (DBP)|
<120 mm Hg
<80 mm Hg
120-129 mm Hg
<80 mm Hg
|Hypertension Stage 1||
130-139 mm Hg
80-89 mm Hg
|Hypertension Stage 2||
Over 139 mm Hg
Over 89 mm Hg
Stage 1 and Stage 2 High Blood Pressure in Women
Stage 1 hypertension is when your blood pressure is 140-159/90-99 mmHg. You would also be considered to have stage 1 hypertension if your systolic blood pressure is 140-159 and your diastolic blood pressure is under 90, or if your diastolic blood pressure is 90-99 and your systolic blood pressure is under 140 as states Heart.org of the AHA.
Stage 2 hypertension is when your blood pressure is over160/100 mmHg, or if your systolic blood pressure is over 160, or if your diastolic blood pressure is over 100. Stage 2 hypertension puts you at higher risk for complications of high blood pressure than stage 1 hypertension does.
High blood pressure is not unique to women, it affects nearly 1 out of every 3 American adults according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and another 1 out of 3 are pre-hypertensive and at risk for developing hypertension.
What Is Essential High Blood Pressure in Women?
Essential hypertension is also known as primary high blood pressure. Over 9 out of 10 cases of hypertension are essential, and this is the kind of hypertension most people are referring to when they talk about “hypertension” or “high blood pressure.” This kind of hypertension is the direct result of factors such as lifestyle choices or genetic factors. Related lifestyle factors can include the following.
- Being overweight
- Have a high-sodium diet or other poor dietary patterns
- Have a low-activity lifestyle
- Lack of sleep
In contrast to essential high blood pressure, secondary high blood pressure is high blood pressure that occurs due to the effects of another condition or medical cause, such as kidney disease, adrenal disease, or medications, such as some over-the-counter painkillers and oral contraceptive pills (birth control pills).
High Blood Pressure Symptoms in Women
The symptoms of hypertension depend on which kind you have and how severe it is. You may not have any signs of high blood pressure, or you could notice hypertension symptoms in your day-to-day activities.
Symptoms of Primary High Blood Pressure in Women
Hypertension is known as “the silent killer” because you can have it without knowing it. You cannot depend on specific hypertension symptoms to let you know that you have high blood pressure. That means you could be at risk for complications such as stroke or kidney disease without realizing it.
The American Heart Association (Heart.org), explains that the early signs of hypertension that people tend to think about are largely mythical. You are unlikely to notice “classic” signs such as anxiety, insomnia, or flushing in your face. You could have blood spots in your eyes due to subconjunctival hemorrhage. Dizziness itself is not among the essential hypertension symptoms, but it could be a sign of stroke.
High Blood Pressure Headaches in Women
Headaches strike over 90% of adults each year. You may be able to wait out some and let them pass, but others may be a sign that your body is asking you to take action. There is a chance that your headache could be a sign of high blood pressure. If there are no other causes of your headache, you should ask your healthcare provider about getting your blood pressure checked.
2021 High Blood Pressure Clinical Guidelines
Hypertension clinical guidelines from the American Heart Association are comprehensive guidelines for healthcare professionals for the detection and treatment of high blood pressure in a wide range of patients. Included in the 2021 hypertension clinical guidelines are proper methods for measuring blood pressure, risks for hypertension, and hypertension treatment for different populations.
These guidelines help guide healthcare practices, and can be related to patient reimbursement and healthcare coverage. The tenth revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, or ICD-10, is the set of codes used to designate specific health conditions and allow for reimbursement through health insurance programs.
There are a few hypertension ICD-10 codes. The code for essential primary hypertension without comorbidities is I10. A patient with hypertension and heart disease would qualify for I.11.9 or I.11.0, depending on if she had heart failure as well. Other ICD-10 codes consider hypertension with or without chronic kidney disease and kidney failure.
High Blood Pressure Risk Factors for Women
Since you are unlikely to have symptoms of hypertension, it is good to learn the factors of risk so you have some idea for yourself You should contact your healthcare provider if you have prehypertension or high risk for hypertension. Even if your risk is low, you should find your blood pressure so you have a baseline to work from so you can stay healthy in the future.
Non-Modifiable Factors for High Blood Pressure
The risk factors for high blood pressure include both genetic factors as well as modifiable factors, or factors that can be controlled. These are the factors you cannot control.
|Family history||You are more likely to develop high blood pressure if your parents or siblings did.|
|Age||Your risk increases as you get older.|
|Race||African Americans are more likely to get high blood pressure and complications from it.|
Modifiable Risks for High Blood Pressure in Women
Modifiable risk factors for hypertension are factors that you can control. Learning about these can help you identify areas in your life where you could change some things to lower high blood pressure or lower your risk for high blood pressure.
These are some lifestyle-related issues for hypertension.
|Obesity||Extra weight requires extra blood volume to circulate oxygen to your tissues, which causes extra pressure in your blood vessels. A BMI of 30 or over corresponds to a weight of 180 lb. for someone who is 5’6” or 209 lb. for someone who is 5’10.”|
|Lack of physical activity||Your heart must work harder to pump blood through your body, and force on your arteries is higher.|
|A high-sodium, low-potassium diet||Sodium, which is mostly found in salt, raises blood pressure by increasing water retention and blood volume, while potassium has the opposite effect.|
|Use of tobacco||Smoking and chewing tobacco raise blood pressure and damage your arteries.|
|Excessive alcohol consumption||Moderate consumption of red wine can be good for your heart in some cases, but alcohol abuse over time can raise blood pressure.|
Hypertension at Work
There has been some attention towards high blood pressure at work. It makes sense, since work can be stressful. Even a job you love can take time away from your family and leisure time while demanding effort and enforcing tight deadlines. Worse, jobs could involve unpleasant coworkers, unrealistic workloads, and high-pressure bosses.
You may suspect that your job raises your blood pressure, and there is some evidence that that could happen. Working too many hours, being around people you find unpleasant, and being in a high-strain job can all increase hypertension risk. So can the perception that work takes away from your time at home.
Hypertension Prevention and Treatment
- Losing extra weight
- Increasing hypertension diet quality.
- Increasing physical activity.
- Avoiding tobacco use.
- Getting enough sleep.
- Managing stress.
- Monitoring blood pressure.
Losing Extra Weight
Extra weight is a major risk mofifier for hypertension. While weight loss is difficult for many people, it can be easier to focus on small goals. Losing just a little bit of extra weight can help, since each kilogram (2.2 lb.) can lead to a 1-point decrease in blood pressure stated a recent Harvard Study.
Small changes can help you lose weight over time.
- Drink more water. It helps reduce hunger!
- Fill your plate with non-starchy vegetables, since they are low-calorie and filling.
- Consider lower-calorie swaps, such as fatty meats for skinless poultry and fish.
- Bake, grill, roast, or steam instead of fry.
- Limit high-calorie, low-nutrient foods such as desserts, butter, and fried foods.
Weight-loss support can keep you motivated and on track. When you have a health coach available to you 24/7, you can depend on help when you need it for handling cravings and staying motivated. Lark health coach also tracks your weight and progress towards weight goals, and offers advice for good food choices for weight loss.
Increasing Diet Quality for Women
Most Americans get too much sodium and not enough potassium, and that can be a blood pressure-raising combination. Shifting the balance can help lower blood pressure by a few points. These choices can help you change the balance to get more potassium and less sodium.
Good foods for women watching thei blood pressure:
- Consume more beans, vegetables, fruit, fish, and yogurt.
- Watch processed and prepared foods, such as canned foods, snack foods, processed meats, and frozen foods.
- Limit prepared foods, such as fast food and deli salads.
- Cut out salty foods, such as salty sauces and dressings, cheese, and pickles.
- Vitamin C: in vegetables and fruit.
- Vitamin D: in fortified milk and fatty fish.
- Fiber: in vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains, and fruit.
- Calcium: in dairy products, dairy substitutes, and leafy greens.
Sodium and potassium may be the nutrients you hear about most often for blood pressure, but other nutrients can also help keep your numbers in check.
As you think about boosting good nutrients, you can also think about limiting the bad ones.
- Choose lean meats and fish instead of fatty cuts.
- Choose lower-fat dairy products.
- Swap olive oil, avocados, and nut butters for butter, shortening, and lard.
- Take fruit instead of baked goods or ice cream for a sweet treat.
- Look for whole grain versions instead of opting for refined cereal and white bread, pasta, and rice.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, from the CDC is a meal plan that can help you get more of the blood pressure-lowering nutrients and less of the blood pressure-raising villains. A clinical trial found that the DASH diet can lower blood pressure within weeks.
It is higher than the average diet in vegetables, fruit, and dairy products. It is lower than the average diet in added sugars, refined starches, and red meat.
You can follow a DASH diet by including the following foods in your regular plan:
- 6 1-ounce servings of grains per day – focus on whole grain options.
- 4 to 5 servings of vegetables per day.
- 4 to 5 servings of fruit per day.
- 2 to 3 servings of low-fat dairy products per day.
- Up to 6 1-ounce servings of lean meat, poultry, or fish per day.
- 4 servings per week of nuts and seeds.
- 2 to 3 servings per day of healthy fats and oils.
This may seem like a lot to remember, but you do not need to do it on your own. Lark health coach can help you follow a DASH-style diet while considering your individual lifestyle. The app encourages healthier choices on a daily basis.
Increasing Physical Activity
Exercise lowers blood pressure by nearly 10 mm Hg, so adding exercise to your regular schedule can help prevent or treatment hypertension. The general recommendation for aerobic exercise is to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least 5 days a week, or at least 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise at least 5 days per week.
You can try:
- Walking or jogging
- Bicycling indoors or on a stationary bike
- Using an elliptical, stair climbing, or rowing machine
- Taking aerobics or other group fitness classes
- Swimming or doing water aerobics
You can also improve general health and lower blood pressure by incorporating strength training into your routine at least twice a week. Weights such as dumbbells, barbells, and weight machines can work, but so can body weight exercises, resistance bands, and medicine balls.
Starting and especially maintaining an exercise program can be challenging, but you can set yourself up for success.
- Make it fun to stay motivated. Keep trying until you find something you love. It could be walking, but it could be something as unexpected as circus classes for exercise.
- Involve others. Get a friend to join you so you are less likely to skip your workout, and more likely to complete the whole thing.
- Add it your schedule and keep the commitment, just like you do with brushing your teeth, attending important meetings at work, and getting your children to their activities.
- Use a smartphone app such as Lark. This health coach can motivate and remind you to get active, help you set and achieve activity goals, and track your activity.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the NIH, you can get started with an exercise program if you are generally healthy. However, you should check with your healthcare provider first if you are over 50, have a heart condition or another health condition, or have a family history of heart attacks.
Avoiding Tobacco Use
Smoking can increase your risk for hypertension, not to mention heart problems, hypertensive crisis, stroke, cancer, and other conditions. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (AHA), found that normotensive smokers who quit smoking for a week reduced their blood pressure by nearly 4 points systolic and 2 points diastolic. Avoiding chewing tobacco and secondhand smoke can also lower blood pressure or risk for hypertension.
Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is more than just a luxury or an escape. It is a necessary component of a healthy lifestyle if you want to lower risk for conditions including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and blood pressure. Even a night of sleep deprivation can interfere with your body’s ability to control blood pressure, and being chronically short on sleep can increase hypertension risk.
Many adults fall short of their recommended amounts of sleep, but you can take steps to get adequate shut-eye.
- Have a consistent bed-time.
- Follow a relaxing pre-bed routine.
- Be sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool.
- Avoid phone, computer, and TV screens 30 minutes before bed.
- Use a health coach that also tracks sleep.
Managing Stress for Women
You may not be surprised to learn that stress can contribute to increases in blood pressure, both in the moment and over time. Stress from jobs, relationships, financial pressures, and other aspects of life can be harmful. Some of it is unavoidable, but the good news is that research suggests that how you respond to stress affects how much harm the stress does.
Learning to manage stress can be well worth it. These are some common and helpful approaches:
- Exercise regularly
- Relax with stretching, massage, or a hot bath
- Use deep breathing techniques
- Talk yourself through it
- Phone a friend
It can be hard to learn how to manage stress, but practice helps. Lark health coach can also help by letting you identify when you are stressed and offering suggestions for staying calm and in control in the moment.
Monitoring Blood Pressure in Women
Taking regular blood pressure readings can help you keep blood pressure down. Those readings act as reminders to keep up with your healthy lifestyle and any medications. They also let you learn patterns, so you can easily know if something is wrong and it is time to contact your healthcare provider.
If you have hypertension, taking blood pressure twice a day can be burdensome because it is hard to remember, but you can get help. Your Lark health coach can remind you and automatically store your measurements so you can see trends and share them with your doctor.
In addition, your healthcare provider might prescribe hypertension medications if you are unable to control your blood pressure with these lifestyle strategies.
Getting Help for Hypertension Prevention and Treatment
Healthy lifestyle changes can be effective for preventing and treating essential and other types of hypertension, but they can be difficult for people to implement on their own. You can find help for making healthy changes, though.
Lark Hypertension, for example, is a health coach for essential hypertension treatment. It offers help for a variety of approaches to support healthy blood pressure.
- Support and tracking for weight loss
- Healthy diet information and advice
- Physical activity tracking and tips
- Stress reduction strategies
- Healthy sleep tips and tracking
- Reminders to measure blood pressure, and storage of your data
- Medication reminders
- Help connecting with a healthcare professional if your blood pressure is out of range
High blood pressure may be “the silent killer,” but you can stand up loud and clear against it. Take charge of your blood pressure by knowing your risks, doing what you can to prevent and control hypertension, and working with your healthcare provider.
Calculate Your Risk of Diabetes: Your Blood Pressure
Best Hypertension Management Health Coach App
You are putting in the work, so you deserve to maximize the benefits. A weight loss health coach app can help you do just that. A health coach app serves all the functions of a regular coach: informing, motivating, guiding, cheering, and organizing. The best weight loss health coach app:
- Informs you about healthy ways to lose weight and incorporate healthy behaviors into your lifestyle.
- Motivates you to keep setting and chasing new goals.
- Guides you through your weight loss journey in your own way.
- Cheers your successes, your efforts, and, should you fall short of your goals for a time, your renewed dedication.
- Organizes by encouraging you to log your food, activity and weight, and storing that information.