Risk of Hypertension in Women
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in women across the globe and hypertension is the most common risk factor for CVD. While the overall prevalence of high blood pressure is reported to be higher in men than women, however, the statistics turn significantly after the age of 60 years when it is more prevalent in women than men. Though high blood pressure is not directly related to gender, multiple issues throughout a woman’s life such as pregnancy, birth control, and menopause can raise the risk of developing high blood pressure.
A common misconception among women is that they are immune to hypertension, though this is not the case as nearly half of all adults with high blood pressure are women. In fact, as little as a mere 20 pounds of extra weight puts them at a greater risk of the disease, and a family history of high blood pressure or menopause are someof the other risk factors. Many women consider themselves to be immune to hypertension and though it is correct that the risk of the condition is higher in men than women, however, that advantage disappears when women reach menopause. Women lose the protective effect of estrogen as levels decline after menopause. Though, they can also develop the condition before menopause, even though they are at reduced risk.
Hypertension is aptly known as a "silent killer," as it is usually unaccompanied by signs and symptoms until the damage to organs like the heart or kidneys has reached far and wide. Therefore, it becomes important to remain alert and monitor blood pressure throughout adulthood.
Gender-Specific Risk Factors
Oral contraceptives are known to increase blood pressure in women and the risk is higher when it is coupled with smoking. Therefore, if you happen to smoke and are considering taking an oral contraceptive, be sure to discuss the increased risk with your practitioner.Women who are age 35 or older and smoke should stay away from certain oral contraceptives. Moreover, make sure to get your blood pressure checked regularly.
A higher percentage of body fat in women is another risk factor for hypertension in women.Visceral fat referred to as fat that accumulates deep in the abdomen, is linked to hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease, and insulin resistance.
Gestational hypertension is described as high blood pressure that suddenly develops during pregnancy without any prior history andis fairly common. For this reason, prenatal care is considered importantfor all expectant mothers. Gestational hypertension develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy and usually resolves after delivery.It is seen in up to 8% of women who are pregnant and mostly during their first pregnancy. If the condition is not taken care of appropriately, it can harm the mother and fetus alike. Further, if you are already suffering from hypertension andplan to start a family, discuss your condition with your healthcare provider.Pregnancy can not only affect your blood pressure; it can alsoput you and your developing baby at risk.
High blood pressure can damage your blood vessels and organs and the longer it goes uncontrolled, the higher the damage. Complications resulting from uncontrolled high blood pressure include a greater risk of heart attack or stroke and weakened and narrowed blood vessels in your kidneys which may prevent the normal functioning of these organs. Trouble with memory or understanding, dementia, and thickened, narrowed, or torn blood vessels in the eyes that can result in vision loss are some other complications that can affect the quality of life.
While hypertension remains a serious condition, the good news is simple lifestyle changes such as following a healthy diet and exercising can reduce your risk of developing this condition and improve your control if you do. Further, the DASH diet has been demonstrated to decrease blood pressure as in addition to cutting calories, it also reduces salt consumption - another important factor in blood pressure control.