Blood Pressure 101

by Stacey Colino


Most doctors recommend having your blood pressure checked annually if it's normal, every three to six months if it's high. What's normal? For a premenopausal woman, any level between 110/65 and 120/80 is a safe range, over 140/90 is considered high, and anything in between is deemed borderline high. Women tend to have lower blood pressure than men until menopause. Nearly half of women over 55 have hypertension, according to the American Heart Association; it's two to three times as common in women who have taken oral contraceptives for five or more years.

Contrary to popular belief, systolic hypertension, in which only the top number is high, is as risky as diastolic hypertension, where only the bottom number is high. A new report from Harvard's Physicians Health Study revealed that men whose systolic readings are only slightly above normal have an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Until more is known, it's safe to assume this goes for women too.

The best ways to keep your blood pressure in check are to exercise, control your weight, consume less than 2-1/2 grams of sodium a day and moderate your alcohol consumption.


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