Study shows ‘normal’ blood pressure for women should be lower

Published: March 2, 2021 6:31 PM EST
Updated: March 3, 2021 9:45 AM EST

Men’s and women’s heart health are very different, but until now, they were measured the same.

New research published by the American Heart Association shows the widely accepted “normal” blood pressure target should actually be lower for women.

We learned why doctors are not collectively ready to adopt this as the standard.

While Megan Corbin’s heart attack didn’t kill her, not all of her survived either.

“Once I got to the hospital, they told me part of my heart had died,” Corbin explained.

She learned something else at the hospital.

“They did find my blood pressure is pretty high and my cholesterol levels were elevated,” Corbin said.

“Blood pressure doesn’t become a symptom until it’s almost too late until a patient sometimes presents with a ruptured blood vessel in the form of a stroke or in the form of a heart attack,” said Dr. Shona Velamakanni, the medical director of cardiac imaging at NCH.

But new research aims to save more women like Corbin.

It finds women experience heart disease, heart failure, and strokes at lower systolic blood pressure levels than men.

The recommendation is to consider sex-specific blood pressure ranges.

Currently, it’s 120/80.

Now, the research suggests lowering women’s targets to 110/80.

“It did suggest that that was a significant difference, just that 10-millimeter drop,” said Dr. Richard Chazal, the medical director of the Heart and Vascular Institute at Lee Health.

Despite the study, local cardiologists feel more research is needed.

“The people who wrote it are excellent researchers, I know some of them,” Chazal said. “And so it’s a large study over a long period of time. And it’s fascinating data. But it’s not a peer-reviewed paper.”

“This is more of a paper to generate more discussion, more research going forward,” Velamakanni said. “So we can finally come to the conclusion is there a different blood pressure cutoff for men versus women?”

Historically, the data that set health guidelines and recommendations like blood pressure ranges relied on medical trials.

But women and minorities were often underrepresented in those trials.

MORE: Sex Differences in Blood Pressure Associations With Cardiovascular Outcomes