Do You Know Your Risks?

High blood pressure affects about 1 in 3 Americans, half of whom are women. About one-third of deaths in women in the US can be traced back to heart disease. Despite these sobering facts, many women do not know much about heart disease or hypertension. Here’s what women need to know about high blood pressure.

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Not just a man’s problem

A common myth is that heart health is a men’s health problem. Men and women in the 40-60 age range have about the same risk of developing high blood pressure. What’s more, women who have gone through menopause have an even higher risk of developing hypertension than men do. Because of this, hypertension awareness is just as crucial for women as for men.

The silent killer

High blood pressure is often called the silent killer because the condition can show few to no symptoms. Some women may experience headaches, dizziness, or nosebleeds. But for others, the signs of hypertension go unnoticed until a heart attack or stroke occurs. For this reason, getting regular blood pressure checks is crucial.

How to read your blood pressure

Blood pressure is measured by two numbers: systolic and diastolic. Systolic refers to the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. Diastolic is the measurement of the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats. A systolic measurement of less than 120mmHg and a diastolic measurement of less than 80mmHg is considered normal blood pressure. A systolic measurement over 140mmHg and a diastolic measurement of 90mmHg or higher is diagnosed as hypertension.

Where can I get blood pressure checked?

The best place to check blood pressure is in the doctor’s office at an annual women’s wellness exam. Between appointments, women can check blood pressure at public blood pressure monitors, such as those found in drug stores. If there is a significant increase in blood pressure at any time, follow up with a healthcare provider right away.

Other risk factors

In addition to menopause, there are a few other risk factors specific to women. Taking birth control pills can increase blood pressure in some women. Women who are pregnant will also need to take extra precautions to manage blood pressure. Some pregnant women develop gestational hypertension, which can increase the risk of a dangerous condition called preeclampsia.

What can I do?

Luckily, specific lifestyle habits can help women manage blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease. Exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Eat a diet full of nutrients and low in saturated fats. And see a doctor regularly. Annual check-ups are one of the best ways to manage health and monitor any ongoing risks. For more information about managing blood pressure, speak with a healthcare provider.

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