If there is one cardiovascular risk every woman needs to be aware of it is hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. Up until age 65, men and women are equally likely to have high blood pressure—but as we age the risk of high blood pressure in women increases dramatically. High blood pressure occurs when a high rate of blood is forced against the artery walls. Over time the high force of blood within the artery walls will result in health problems associated with high blood pressure. Blood pressure grows higher when the heart pumps excessive amounts of blood at a quick rate into narrow blood vessels.
Hypertension affects people differently. Symptoms vary, but by the time symptoms appear, it may be too late to avoid additional health problem; such as heart disease, stroke, dementia, blindness, heart failure and kidney disease.
Understanding your blood pressure reading is the first step in controlling high blood pressure. Two numbers measure blood pressure; the systolic is the upper number, and diastolic is the lower. Systolic measures the amount of blood in your arteries when the heart contracts. Diastolic measures the amount of blood in the arteries when the heart is between beats.
The American Heart Association places a normal blood pressure as less than 120 over 80.
Stages of Hypertension
If either the systolic or diastolic numbers are above the normal range, it is an indication that blood pressure is too high.
Hypertension Stage 1
- 130-139 over 80-89.
Hypertension Stage 2
- 140 or higher over 90 or higher
Hypertension Stage 3
- More than 180 over higher than 120
Hypertension is bad news for anyone, but the negative effects on women are cause for concern. The American Heart Association claims that women account for nearly half of adults with high blood pressure. The fact that high blood pressure isn’t gender related doesn’t change the fact that women 65 years of age and older contract high blood pressure at a higher rate than men.
From pregnancy, right through menopause, women should take special care to know their blood pressure numbers so they can eliminate problems related to hypertension.
Women who take birth control pills are at risk of high blood pressure, especially if there’s a family history or if she had high blood pressure during a previous pregnancy. Weight is also a factor. This is true at any stage. There is a link between obesity and high blood pressure. High blood pressure doesn’t occur for all women taking birth control pills, but women who take birth control should definitely monitor their blood pressure. Before prescribing oral contraceptives, your doctor should take your blood pressure. He or she should then apprise their patient of the risk.
During pregnancy, women are susceptible to gestational hypertension, which occurs for some women after 20-weeks. Hypertension may have never been an issue prior to pregnancy, but this secondary condition of hypertension is actually caused by the pregnancy. Even though the condition will disappear after delivery, it is imperative that the mom is treated so that the danger is eliminated for her and her child. Gestational hypertension can trigger another dangerous illness related to pregnancy, pre-eclampsia or toxemia. Like hypertension, it begins about 20 weeks post baby delivery. The only cure for preeclampsia is for the baby to be born.
By the way, ACE inhibitors, drugs that fight high blood pressure, don’t mix well with pregnancy. Women should not take ACE inhibitors during pregnancy. Speak to your health professional about maintaining normal blood pressure during pregnancy.
The chances of increasing normal blood pressure are likely with age, even if your blood pressure has always been normal. Menopausal women should monitor their blood pressure. Get your doctor involved. Make regular visits, once every six months to have your pressure checked.
Monitoring blood pressure is crucial. Women who wish to stay healthy throughout their lives will do everything within their power to get and keep their blood pressure under control.
At Advanced Medical, PA, we pride ourselves in providing quality healthcare in both internal medicine and primary care. To learn more about us and the services we offer, or to schedule a visit, call us at (561) 434-1935 to request an appointment.