High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease in Women

nurse taking young woman's blood pressure reading in doctor's office

Is high blood pressure considered heart disease?

High blood pressure is a condition that makes the heart work harder than normal. If left untreated, it scars and damages your arteries and can lead to cardiovascular disease such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure and fatty buildups in the arteries, called atherosclerosis. It can also lead to kidney failure and eye damage.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure in women?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is called the “silent killer” because there can often be no symptoms. This is why monitoring your blood pressure is so important.

We often assume high blood pressure affects those who are type-A personalities, tense and aggressive. But the truth is, it has nothing to do with personality traits. In fact, you can be the most relaxed, calm person and still suffer from hypertension.

What is healthy or normal blood pressure in women?

There is no difference in what is considered normal blood pressure in women and men. The healthy levels are the same for all adults.

Blood pressure is typically recorded as two numbers and written as two numbers, one above the other.

  • Systolic: The top number in the ratio, which is the higher of the two, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats.

  • Diastolic: The bottom number, which is the lower of the two, measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.

Your blood pressure rises with each heartbeat and falls when your heart relaxes between beats. While it can change from minute to minute with changes in posture, exercise, stress or sleep, it should normally be less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) for women or men age 20 or over.

The blood pressure levels considered unhealthy are:

  • Elevated: 120-129 systolic and less than 80 diastolic
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 1: 130-139 systolic or 80-89 diastolic          
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 2: 140 or higher systolic or 90 or higher diastolic  
  • Hypertensive Crisis: Higher than 180 and/or higher than 120 diastolic

View the AHA blood pressure levels chart.

Because blood pressure can fluctuate, consider investing in a home blood pressure monitor to record your numbers regularly. Doing so can help your health care team determine whether you really have high blood pressure and, if you do, whether your treatment plan is working.

Learn how to measure your blood pressure properly.

Are women at higher risk of having high blood pressure?

Women are about as likely as men to develop high blood pressure at some point during their lives. While high blood pressure isn't directly related to gender, pregnancy, birth control or changes to a woman’s body surrounding menopause can contribute to high blood pressure.

You have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure if you are overweight or obese, have a family history of high blood pressure or have reached menopause.

While there is no cure, hypertension can be managed and sometimes prevented by:

These simple changes can go a long way toward lowering your blood pressure numbers and reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Will taking birth control pills increase my chances of getting high blood pressure?

Researchers have found a link between birth control pills and an increase in blood pressure among some women. This is more likely to occur in women who are obese, have kidney disease or have a family history of high blood pressure.

Talk to your health care team to determine what forms of birth control might be best for you. Women with known medical problems or other special conditions might need additional examinations or tests to determine the appropriate method of contraception.

Will high blood pressure affect my chances of getting pregnant?

Women who improve their heart health before pregnancy can reduce their medical risks later. This proactive approach can lower the likelihood of pregnancy complications. If you’re considering becoming pregnant, talk to your health care team about healthy changes you can make to help both you and your baby be healthier.

Learn more about pregnancy and maternal health, including information on being healthy before, during and after a pregnancy.