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Women--especially older women--need to pay more attention to blood pressure, reports the Harvard Women's Health Watch

August 1, 2009

The older a woman gets, the greater her chances of developing high blood pressure, also known as hypertension: it affects 13% of women under age 44, nearly half of women in their 60s, and 80% or more of those over age 75. Hypertension is the most common condition for which women seek treatment, reports the August 2009 issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

A blood pressure reading has two numbers, like 145/90. The top (first) number is the systolic pressure; the bottom (second) number is the diastolic pressure. Experts now believe that in people over age 50, a systolic pressure of 140 or higher poses a bigger danger to the heart and health than a high diastolic pressure (90 or above). Most older women have isolated systolic hypertension—a systolic pressure of 140 or higher with a normal (under 90) diastolic pressure.

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