High Blood Pressure/Hypertension
What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure in Women?
What Is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the inside lining of the arteries. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, occurs when that force rises and stays higher than normal for a period of time. This condition can damage the blood vessels, heart, brain, and other organs. About one in three Americans have high blood pressure.
Dispelling Gender Myths
Hypertension is often considered a men’s health problem, but that’s a myth. Men and women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s have a similar level of risk for developing high blood pressure. But after the onset of menopause, women actually face higher risks than men of developing high blood pressure. Prior to age 45, men are slightly more likely to develop high blood pressure, but certain female health issues can change those odds.
The “Silent Killer”
Unfortunately, blood pressure can rise without any noticeable symptoms. That’s why it’s sometimes referred to as “the silent killer.” You can have high blood pressure and experience no obvious symptoms until you experience a stroke or heart attack.
In some people, severe high blood pressure can result in nosebleeds, headaches, or dizziness. Because hypertension can sneak up on you, it’s especially important to monitor your blood pressure regularly.
High Blood Pressure Complications
Without proper diagnosis, you may not know that your blood pressure is climbing. High blood pressure must be kept under control, or else it can result in very obvious and serious health problems. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke and kidney failure. The damage to blood vessels caused by chronic high blood pressure can also contribute to heart attacks. For women who are pregnant, high blood pressure can be especially dangerous, both for the mother and baby.
Checking Your Blood Pressure
The best way to find out whether you have hypertension is by having your blood pressure checked. This can be done at the doctor’s office, at home with a blood pressure monitor, or even by using a public blood pressure monitor, such as those found in shopping malls and pharmacies.
You should know what your usual blood pressure is. If you see a significant increase in this number the next time your blood pressure is checked, you should seek further evaluation from your healthcare provider.
The Childbearing Years
Some women who take birth control pills may notice a slight elevation in blood pressure. However, they are usually women who have experienced high blood pressure previously, are overweight, or have a family history of hypertension. If you are pregnant, your blood pressure may rise, so regular checkups and monitoring are recommended.
Women who have never had high blood pressure may experience pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH), which is related to the more serious condition called preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is a condition that affects about five to eight percent of pregnant women. In the women it affects, it usually develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Symptoms include high blood pressure, bladder problems, and sometimes sudden weight gain and swelling as well.
Preeclampsia is a serious condition, contributing to about 13 percent of all maternal deaths worldwide. It is usually a manageable complication, however. It typically disappears within two months after the baby is born. Women most at risk for preeclampsia are those who are in their teens or 40s, have had multiple pregnancies, are obese, or who have had hypertension or kidney problems in the past.
Managing Risk Factors
Expert advice for reducing your chances of developing high blood pressure is the same for women and men:
- Exercise about 30 to 45 minutes a day, five days a week.
- Eat a diet moderate in calories and low in saturated fats.
- Stay current with your doctor appointments.
Be sure to speak with your physician about your risks for high blood pressure. Your doctor can fill you in on the best ways to keep your blood pressure normal and your heart healthy.
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- High blood pressure (hypertension): Symptoms. (2012, August 3). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-pressure/DS00100/DSECTION=symptoms
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