Explained: The Link Between Blood Pressure, Age & Gender

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Dr. Pakhi Sharma, MBBSGeneral Physician, 6+ Years
Published On : 17-May-2022Read Time : 5 minutes
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As we get older, so does our body. This often manifests as creaking or aching joints, wrinkled skin, forgetfulness, etc. But did you know that your blood pressure (BP) can change as you age? Yes, ageing can affect your blood vessels and heart too, which can result in BP variations. Even more interestingly, these changes can be different in men and women. In this article, you will learn more about how ageing and gender can affect your blood pressure levels. 

Contents:

  • What is Blood Pressure? How is it Measured? 
  • What is the Link Between Blood Pressure, Age and Gender? 
  • What is the Normal Blood Pressure Range by Age? 
  • Are Blood Pressure Levels Same in Men and Women? 
  • When to See a Doctor? 
  • Don’t Have Time To Read? 
  • FAQs 

What is Blood Pressure? How is it Measured?

Blood pressure is the force exerted by your blood on the inner walls of your arteries as it flows through them. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Your heart pumps blood by ‘beating’, i.e. contracting and relaxing, which pushes blood out from your heart, through the arteries and to your organs, muscles, tissues, etc.

Blood pressure is measured using a sphygmomanometer or a digital BP monitor. The units of measurement for blood pressure are millimeters of mercury or mm Hg, as manual sphygmomanometers use mercury to gauge blood pressure readings.

Your blood pressure readings will have two numbers - the upper or ‘systolic’ reading and the lower or ‘diastolic’ reading.

  • The systolic reading measures the pressure exerted by blood in your arteries when your heart beats (contracts).
  • The diastolic reading measures the pressure exerted by blood in your arteries when your he
    art rests (relaxes).

The following is the blood pressure range chart as defined by the American Heart Association (AHA) and National Health Services (NHS) UK.

CategorySystolic Blood Pressure (in mm Hg)Diastolic Blood pressure (in mm Hg)
Hypotension< 90< 60
Normal90 to 12060 to 80
Elevated Blood Pressure120 to 129< 80
Hypertension Stage 1130 to 13980 to 89
Hypertension Stage 2> 140> 90
Hypertensive Crisis> 180> 120

The normal blood pressure for healthy adults is 120/80 mm Hg. You have hypotension if your blood pressure is below 90/60 mm Hg. Hypotension treatment may involve dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, and medication.

You have hypertension if your blood pressure is above 130/80 mm Hg. Hypertension is divided into various stages depending on the degree of blood pressure elevation. If you have Stage 1 Hypertension, your doctor would recommend dietary and lifestyle changes like exercise to bring it down to normal. Treatment of Stage 2 Hypertension includes medical intervention along with lifestyle changes.

What is the Link Between Blood Pressure, Age, and Gender?

Blood Pressure and Age

As you age, your body undergoes physiological changes. Your blood vessels that are made up of smooth, flexible muscles start hardening in your late teen years or 20s. The changes are most often noticeable by the time you reach your 30s. Arteries become hardened and narrow due to the accumulation of plaque in the inner walls of your blood vessels. Plaque comprises the deposits of cholesterol, other fatty substances from your food, calcium, cellular debris, and a mesh-like protein called fibrin.

When blood flows through flexible arteries, they constrict and widen as necessary which keeps your blood pressure levels stable. However, as your arteries become more rigid due to aging, they stop relaxing and widening, which results in your blood exerting too much pressure as it flows through them. As you age, the plaque in your blood vessels also grows larger in size, which further narrows your arteries. This results in your blood pressure rising gradually as you grow older.

In some cases, blood flow and circulation get worse with age. This happens because your heart slowly becomes weak and tired and is unable to pump blood around your body efficiently. This leads to your blood pressure levels falling, especially when changing your posture or shifting your position too quickly. Postural hypotension is observed in about 10 to 20% of people over the age of 65 years.

Blood Pressure and Gender

Women who are premenopausal (who are still menstruating; generally under the ages of 40 to 45 years) tend to have lower blood pressure levels than men of the same age. However, after menopause (usually over the age of 50 or 55 years) women’s blood pressure levels rise, and are higher than men of the same age group. 

The reasons for these changes are complex and may be related to the levels of estrogen (the primary sex and reproductive hormones in women) in women, among other factors. The presence of estrogen in premenopausal women protects them from cardiovascular problems like heart attack and stroke. 

However, hormone supplementation after menopause gives mixed results in women, with blood pressure levels rising in some and falling slightly in others. Hormone replacement therapy does however increase the risk of cardiovascular events. 

The blood pressure levels in women and men remain the same till puberty, at which point the levels start to differ according to gender.

What is the Normal Blood Pressure Range by Age?

As discussed above, blood pressure levels rise with age. The following table shows the normal systolic and diastolic blood pressure ranges for various age groups. If your blood pressure levels are below the minimum readings or above the maximum readings, you may experience symptoms of hypotension or hypertension respectively.

AgeNormal Systolic RangeNormal Diastolic Range
0 to 1 month45 to 80 mm Hg30 to 55 mm Hg
1 to 12 months65 to 100 mm Hg35 to 65 mm Hg
1 to 5 years80 to 115 mm Hg55 to 80 mm Hg
6 to 13 years80 to 120 mm Hg45 to 80 mm Hg
14 to 18 years90 to 120 mm Hg50 to 80 mm Hg
19 to 40 years95 to 135 mm Hg60 to 80 mm Hg
41 to 60 years110 to 145 mm Hg70 to 90 mm Hg
Over 60 years95 to 145 mm Hg70 to 90 mm Hg

Source: Vital Sign Measurement Across the Lifespan- 1st Canadian Edition, Jennifer L. Lapum. et al., 2019, p 123.

Are Blood Pressure Levels Same in Men and Women?

The following data has been compiled by researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which is a US federal agency.

Normal BP Range for Men

The following table depicts the mean blood pressure levels for adult men.

Age GroupMean BP in Men
18 to 39 years119/70 mm Hg
40 to 59 years124/77 mm Hg
60+ years133/69 mm Hg

Normal BP Range for Women

The following table depicts the mean blood pressure levels for adult women.

Age GroupMean BP in Women
18 to 39 years110/68 mm Hg
40 to 59 years122/74 mm Hg
60+ years139/68 mm Hg

When to See a Doctor?

You should consult your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms of hypotension (like dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, rapid heartbeat, fainting, etc.) or hypertension (like headache, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, chest pain, etc.). Both these conditions can be serious and cause health problems if left untreated. 
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or suspect that your blood pressure levels are abnormally low or elevated, consult a cardiologist immediately.

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • Blood pressure is defined as the force exerted by your blood on the walls of your arteries as it circulates.
  • Blood pressure can vary based on different factors like age, gender, ethnicity, etc.
  • As you age, your arteries become stiffer and narrower due to the buildup of plaque (layer of cholesterol, calcium, debris, fatty substances, etc.) in the inner lining of the walls.
  • Narrowed and stiffer blood vessels cause your blood pressure to rise as you age.
  • Premenopausal women have lower blood pressure levels compared to men of the same age, due to the presence of estrogen and other factors.
  • The BP levels in women go up after menopause, and are higher than the BP levels of men of the same age group.
  • Consult your doctor or seek medical attention if you are experiencing any symptoms of low or high blood pressure.
  • Use the Phable Care App to consult India's leading cardiologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate BP monitors and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Hypertension Management program which provides ‎360º care. Let's treat blood pressure problems together.

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