Blood pressure is a measure of pressure within your arterial walls, indicating the force of blood pushing against the blood vessel walls. The value itself is made up of two numbers called systole and diastole. Systolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood; diastolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats. Most often, blood pressure numbers are written with the systolic number above or before the diastolic, such as 120/80 mm Hg. The mm Hg refers to millimeters of mercury, which are the units used to measure blood pressure. There are normal ranges of blood pressure readings that agencies such as the American Heart Association have developed that are useful to health-care practitioners in determining blood pressure health. These normal ranges are the same for men and women.
A blood pressure reading of 120/80 and below is considered normal. There are three degrees of abnormal blood pressure, or what is termed high blood pressure, or hypertension. The stage of pre-hypertension is valued at a range of 120 to 139 systolic and 80 to 89 diastolic. Type I hypertension is a range of 140 to 159 systolic and 90 to 99 diastolic. Lastly, type II hypertension is any value above 160 systolic and 100 diastolic.
Age-Associated Rise in Pressure
Blood pressure in men is typically very similar to women under the age of 35 as reported by the American Heart Association. However, after 35, age-associated rise in blood pressure becomes more pronounced in men. This deviation in blood pressure continues to about age 45 when men and women begin to show similarities in blood pressure values once more. However, post age 55, women are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
High Levels and Heart Disease
Men should be especially aware of rises in blood pressure after the age of 50. Past this age, there is a far greater likelihood of developing hypertension and the associated health risks such as cardiovascular disease, ischemic heart disease, and heart attack. It is important to closely monitor the changes in the systolic value as this has been shown to be closely correlated with hypertension in older adults. Nonetheless, with proper identification, and treatment with lifestyle modifications and anti-hypertensive medication, high blood pressure can be managed, but not necessarily cured.