The number one cause of death for women in the United States continues to be heart disease, a condition that is preventable. One of the major risk factors for heart disease is hypertension or high blood pressure, which is a blood pressure at or above 140/90 mmHg. High blood pressure does not usually have symptoms so the only way to know you have it is to get your blood pressure measured.
The key to preventing hypertension is to know and control your blood pressure.
This year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office on Women's Health (OWH) is leading National Women's Blood Pressure Awareness Week (NWBPAW) and emphasizing the importance of blood pressure control and empowering women to take simple, everyday actions to improve their heart health.
The theme of NWBPAW 2021 – Healthy Pressure, Healthy You – highlights the connection between blood pressure and overall health and the importance of women maintaining healthy blood pressure levels at every age and stage of their lives.
Why focus on self-measured blood pressure?
Encouraging women to monitor their own blood pressure levels is essential to helping reduce and control high blood pressure – one of the most preventable causes of pregnancy-related deaths and overall mortality for women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly half of women who have hypertension (high blood pressure) do not have it under control.
Self-measured blood pressure, also called self-monitoring, combined with health care provider support, are two important strategies to reduce hypertension and improve overall heart health. Self-measured blood pressure monitoring is also a component of Million Hearts, a national initiative led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes within 5 years. Another target set within HHS is to achieve blood pressure control in 80% of women of reproductive age living with hypertension. Through National Women’s Blood Pressure Awareness Week, we are working to help make this happen.
During NWBPAW, we are excited to introduce the new Office on Women’s Health Self-Measured Blood Pressure (SMBP) Partnership Program. The partnership program will create a network of organizations committed to helping women maintain healthy blood pressure levels through self-measuring, also known as self-monitoring.
Learn more about the SMBP Partnership Program here:
What are the daily themes for the week?
Blood Pressure Basics - What You Need to Know
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, the number one cause of death for women in the United States. It also increases the potential for you to get severely ill from COVID-19. More than 100 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure, which is often called a “silent killer” because women with the condition may show no symptoms. The good news: Early diagnosis and blood pressure management can reduce heart-related morbidity and mortality.
Understanding Your Blood Pressure Patterns & Risk Factors
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, occurs when the pressure or force of blood flowing through your arteries is higher than normal. If the pressure of blood pushing against the artery walls is too high, it can damage your arteries and cause other complications.
Blood pressure is a measure of:
- Systolic pressure (the top number): the pressure as your heart beats or pumps blood into your arteries.
- Diastolic pressure (the bottom number): the pressure when your heart rests between beats.
To lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, try to maintain your blood pressure at less than 120 systolic/80 diastolic.
You may have an increased risk of high blood pressure if you have a family history of the disease. Other risk factors include unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and obesity.
Getting and Keeping Your Blood Pressure Under Control
Although nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, many people don’t know they have it. While the risk for high blood pressure increases as women age, new research shows an upswing in high blood pressure among younger women. To find out if you have high or elevated blood pressure, get your blood pressure checked at least once a year.
Measuring your blood pressure regularly will help your health care team diagnose any health concerns early and develop a heart health plan. Ask your health care provider for more information about how a blood pressure cuff can help you monitor your blood pressure at home. In addition, talk to your health insurance company to learn what benefits may be available to you. If you have Medicaid, you may be eligible for a blood pressure cuff at no cost.
Learn the proper way to measure your blood pressure and factors that can affect your blood pressure reading. Use this blood pressure log pdf (611KB - PDF) to record your measurements.
Healthy Habits to Maintain Good Blood Pressure
Increasing self-care activities – such as eating healthy, exercising, and de-stressing through meditation, yoga, or quiet time – can help you achieve and maintain a healthy blood pressure. By self-monitoring your blood pressure, you may also discover personal “triggers” that may increase stress and your blood pressure.
- Lose weight, according to your doctor's recommendation. Learn more in our Healthy Weight section.
- Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days, or 150 minutes of activity each week. Learn more in our Getting Active section.
- Stop smoking. Find resources to help you quit at women.smokefree.gov.
- Eat healthy.
- Lower sodium in your diet. Learn more in our Healthy Eating section.
- Moderate or stop alcohol consumption.
- Take blood pressure medicine, according to your doctor's prescription.
Blood Pressure and Pregnancy
Research shows pre-pregnancy high blood pressure rates nearly doubled in the United States between 2007 and 2018. That means more women may be at risk for pregnancy-related high blood pressure, also called preeclampsia, which can harm the mother’s kidneys and other organs and can cause the baby to be born too early or underweight.
If you’re pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, or have recently given birth, it’s important to talk with your health care provider about managing your blood pressure.
Learn more about the steps you can step to maintain a healthy blood pressure before, during, and after pregnancy.
Blood Pressure Resources in Your Community
For most women, high blood pressure can be controlled through lifestyle changes such as reducing salt intake, increasing physical activity and managing stress in healthy ways. Your health care provider and local health department may have resources to help you develop your personalized plan to lower and maintain a healthy blood pressure. We also have tips to help you on your journey to a healthier heart.
- Heart Disease and Women
- Heart Disease and Stroke
- Healthy Living by Age
- Heart Disease Risk Factors
- Way to Get and Stay Active
- Healthy Eating
- OWH Self-Measured Blood Pressure Partnership Program
- Move Your Way
- Million Hearts
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
- High Blood Pressure Education
- DASH Healthy Eating Plan
- Medicaid Agencies By State (to learn more about blood pressure cuff benefits)
- American Heart Association
Success Stories and Recap of the Week
Storytelling is a powerful tool to inspire others around us to take action. On the last day of NWBPAW, we encourage women to share their personal stories of steps they took to improve their heart health. We will also highlight important messages shared throughout the week.