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Women have a lower range of healthy blood pressure than men, study finds

Experts say men and women shouldn’t be judged by a one-size-fits-all approach

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A new study conducted by researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center found that the range for healthy blood pressure is different for men and women. The team learned that women have a smaller range for what’s considered normal blood pressure than men, and elevated blood pressure is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. 

These findings come on the heels of other recent studies that have highlighted the differences in how men’s and women’s bodies function. Findings suggest that women are often misdiagnosed or mistreated for common but serious health concerns. 

“Our latest findings suggest that this one-size-fits-all approach to considering blood pressure may be detrimental to a woman’s health,” said researcher Dr. Susan Cheng. “Based on our research results, we recommend that the medical community reassess blood pressure guidelines that do not account for sex differences.” 

Recognizing differences in blood pressure

For the study, the researchers evaluated blood pressure readings from more than 27,000 participants that were involved in earlier studies. The main goal was to see how blood pressure readings impacted the participants’ risk for cardiovascular disease. 

Ultimately, the researchers observed some key differences between men’s and women’s blood pressure readings and later health risks. The biggest disparity came from the top number of the blood pressure -- the systolic reading. Though most health care professionals recommend that the systolic reading stays below 120 mmHg, the researchers found that the healthy range was lower than that for women.

For the men involved in the study, 120 mmHg proved to be an effective benchmark for later heart disease risks. However, when women’s systolic blood pressure exceeded 110 mmHg, they were at an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. 

“We are now pushed to rethink what we thought was a normal blood pressure that might keep a woman or man safe from developing heart disease or stroke,” said Dr. Cheng. 

The researchers hope that these findings change the way that medical professionals look at their patients’ vitals. The differences in men’s and women’s experiences are clear, and it’s important to take them into consideration when implementing treatment protocols. 

“If the ideal physiologic range of blood pressure truly is lower for females than males, current approaches to using sex-agnostic targets for lowering elevated blood pressure need to be reassessed,” said researcher Dr. Christine Albert. “This important work is far-reaching and has numerous clinical implications.” 

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