Blood pressure is the force exerted by the flowing blood on the walls of the blood vessels which carry blood. It is particularly the pressure exerted by the flowing blood on the walls of arteries (blood vessels carrying pure blood or those carrying the blood away from the heart), usually known as arterial pressure.
Ideal blood pressure is considered as 120/80 mm of Hg and is not much different for men and women. However, blood pressure in women may be slightly lower than in men of the same age. Women may have low blood pressure during their monthly cycles and may experience fatigue and dizziness. Women may experience a slight rise in blood pressure during pregnancy. Men and women both are at an increased risk of high blood pressure with increasing age.
Measuring Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is measured using a machine called sphygmomanometer. It has a cuff, which is wrapped around the arm and a ball which is pumped by the physician. As the ball is pumped, the mercury in the mercury meter rises. The physician records the pressure based on the sounds heard, which denote the pressure in the arteries in two phases, which is recorded as two numbers. The pressure of blood against the arterial walls is measured as millimetre of mercury, based on the expansion of mercury in the blood pressure machine.
Blood pressure for men and women is measured as two numbers and is written as 120/80 mm of Hg.
The two numbers denoted in a blood pressure readings, are:
- Systolic Pressure – This number is the higher number and is written at the top of blood pressure reading. The systolic pressure is the pressure in the arteries, when the heart muscle contracts (beats) and empties itself into the main arteries.
- Diastolic Pressure – This is a lower number and is written at the bottom of blood pressure reading. The diastolic pressure is the pressure in between two heartbeats, which is when the heart muscle is resting and is being filled with blood.
Ideal Blood Pressure for Men and Women
Normally a blood pressure of 120/80 mm of Hg is considered ideal for men and women. Women are naturally considered to have slightly lower values, which is ideal too. Very low BP readings may not be advisable, though.
If blood pressure readings are higher, it is called high blood pressure and if lower than this, it is called low blood pressure. While slight variations are accepted, persistent higher or lower readings in men and women may point towards some underlying condition. For systolic pressure, which is ideally 120 mm of Hg, a variation of 20 mm of Hg is permitted, hence anything above 140 or below 100 mm of Hg is considered out of normal range for both men and women. For diastolic pressure, a variation of 10 mm of Hg in men and women is allowed and hence anything above 90 or less than 70 mm of Hg needs to be attended to.
Ideal blood pressure in men and women, helps to maintain normal functioning of the heart, muscles and all organs of the body. Raised as well as lowered blood pressure can cause disturbances and affect your health in many ways. Persistently higher or lower blood pressure can have long term health effects and needs to be treated with medications.
The following chart gives an idea of normal blood pressure in men and women. Higher values are as described by the stages of high blood pressure (hypertension). Slightly lower values are normal in both men and women, however, unusually low readings may need medical care.
|Blood Pressure||Systolic (mm of Hg) Upper number||Diastolic (mm of Hg) Lower number|
|Normal||less than 120||less than 80|
|Prehypertension||120 – 139||80 – 89|
|High Blood Pressure Stage 1||140 – 159||90 – 99|
|High Blood Pressure Stage 2||160 or higher||100 or higher|
|Hypertensive Crisis||Higher than 180||Higher than 110|
Blood pressure readings can vary, hence it is important to understand that one reading of higher or lower blood pressure does not conclude anything. Under normal circumstances, blood pressure can rise after walking, exercising, under stress or when you re suffering from some ailment. Similarly, improper diet, loss of fluids or dehydration, etc. can lower blood pressure. In case, your doctor finds some changes on measuring your BP once, you may be monitored for some time to find if the blood pressure normalises after the stressful situation or temporary changes are over.
High Blood Pressure in Men and Women
In general, the risk of having high blood pressure increases in obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, a family history and inactivity. Sometimes, the physician may find blood pressure in the just above the normal range but still in the prehypertension range like systolic is between 120-139 mm of Hg and diastolic is between 80 to 89 mm of Hg. In such cases, dietary modifications, lifestyle and weight management is suggested to control the blood pressure in both men and women.
In case, these do not work and blood pressure remains high for long, medications are considered, to avoid long term complications and damage to kidneys, eyes and the heart.