High blood pressure in women

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High blood pressure in women does have some differences compared to men that are worth pointing out – not least that some doctors seem to treat high blood pressure in women differently! However, apart from situations like hypertension in pregnancy, most of what holds true for men is true for women too.

Heart Health for women:

The three most important things you can do to prevent cardiovascular disease are:

  • Control your blood pressure
  • Control your cholesterol levels
  • Quit smoking

So, please visit other sections on this site that can tell you about lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, that can help control your blood pressure - in many cases following this advice will keep you from needing medication. There are also sites specific to women’s health that can give additional advice – for an excellent site on stress relief tips check out Stress Management for Women to learn more.

High blood pressure in women - the differences

The menopause

Postmenopausal women are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure than men of the same age. This is the reverse of the situation with premenopausal women in which men are slightly more at risk of hypertension. Researchers are not sure why, though the protective effect of female hormones is part of the reason.

Older women have more to gain from good BP control

A related and important finding is that older women have more to gain than men by reducing their blood pressure if it is raised. One study, published in Hypertension (the Journal of the American Heart Association) found that in women, lowering blood pressure could prevent 36% of serious cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes, compared to only 24% in men.

The contraceptive pill

One cause of high blood pressure in women is use of the birth control pill. It does not cause it in all women - you are at greater risk if you are overweight, have a family history of HBP or have had high blood pressure during pregnancy.

If you are planning to take the birth control pill, do not be scared off – (millions of women take it safely) but do discuss with your doctor and you should definitely monitor your blood pressure regularly. If you are thinking about this (and you should be!) you can read more about monitors here.

Women have more of some risk factors

Some surveys have found that among people with high blood pressure, more women than men have central obesity and raised cholesterol.

Fewer women get the recommended therapy

Researchers analysing data from a large survey of Americans found that, for those with cardiovascular conditions (including hypertension) only 20.7 percent of women, compared to 46.6 percent of men, received the recommended therapy for their cardiovascular conditions. This means that it is important that you stay well-informed about high blood pressure so that you will be aware if you are not receiving the recommended treatment.

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High blood pressure and pregnancy

Pregnancy can bring on high blood pressure in women. Importantly, if you are being treated for hypertension and you plan to get pregnant you need to talk with your doctor to ensure you are on drugs that are safe for the developing baby.

Hypertension and pregnancy is an important topic. You can read about it in more detail here.

Key points

  • You have as much risk of developing hypertension as men. If you are post-menopausal, your risk is higher.
  • If you have high blood pressure, you have even more to gain than men by controlling it well.
  • Women often have more risk factors for heart disease
  • If you are of childbearing age, there are important things you should know about hypertension and pregnancy – read about it here.
  • If you have high blood pressure, are pregnant or are post-menopausal, you really should be helping yourself and your physician by adopting a bp-friendly lifestyle and monitoring your blood pressure.

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This page was last modified on : April 30, 2011.