High blood pressure doesn’t always cause symptoms. When they do appear, they might include skin flushing, red spots in front of the eyes, and dizziness.

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Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the inside lining of the arteries. High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when that force increases and stays higher than normal for a period. This condition can damage the blood vessels, heart, brain, and other organs.

Hypertension is often considered a men’s health problem, but that’s a myth. The American Heart Association reports that about half of people with high blood pressure are women. High blood pressure impacts 1 in 3 Americans in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. Gender doesn’t usually impact the risk greatly, but the onset of menopause slightly raises the risk of developing high blood pressure.

Language matters

Most of the sources used in this article use “men” and “women” to indicate sex and can be assumed to have primarily cisgender participants. But like most conditions, sex and assigned gender are not the most likely indicator of high blood pressure.

Your doctor can better help you understand how your specific circumstances will translate into diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment for high blood pressure.

Learn more about the difference between sex and gender. We’ll also discuss how high blood pressure may affect trans women.

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High blood pressure doesn’t always cause symptoms. In fact, it’s sometimes referred to as a “silent condition” because most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms at all.

Often, symptoms don’t appear at all until someone has had high blood pressure for years and the condition has become severe, but even people with severe high blood pressure might have no symptoms at all.

When symptoms do occur, they look the same in everyone and might include:

But these symptoms only occur once elevated blood pressure has caused the damaged blood vessels to break. The only real sign of high blood pressure is getting consistently high blood pressure readings. That’s why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked at least once a year.

Symptoms of high blood pressure in elderly women

There’s no change to the symptoms of high blood pressure as a person ages. Although cis women who are past menopause are at higher risk for high blood pressure, they’re still unlikely to experience any symptoms at all. High blood pressure is still a silent condition in older women.

If any symptoms do occur, they’ll be likely to be flushing, red spots in front of the eyes, and dizziness. But the best way for older women to monitor their blood pressure is to keep track of their blood pressure numbers and have conversations about their blood pressure with their healthcare professional.

The overall risk for high blood pressure goes up as everyone ages, regardless of sex or gender.

High blood pressure in transgender women

While less research has been done on high blood pressure within transgender women, there are some indications that transgender individuals are overall more likely to experience higher rates of cardiovascular diseases — possibly due to the role of stress in the development of these diseases.

But a large study in 2021 showed that stage 2 hypertension decreased by 47 percent within 4 months of gender-affirming hormone therapy.

Without proper diagnosis, you may not know that your blood pressure is increasing. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to damage to the blood vessels of various organs. This can cause serious health problems, like:

There’s also evidence to suggest that high blood pressure might put you at a higher risk of becoming severely ill if you contract COVID-19.

If you’re pregnant, high blood pressure can be especially dangerous for both you and your baby. Both those who have preexisting high blood pressure and those without may experience pregnancy-induced hypertension — which is related to the more serious condition called preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia affects around 5 percent of pregnancies and is one of the leading causes of both maternal and infant mortality.

Generally, preeclampsia develops during the 20th week of pregnancy, but it can occur earlier in rare cases. It can also sometimes occur during postpartum. The symptoms include high blood pressure, headaches, possible liver or kidney problems, and sometimes sudden weight gain and swelling.

Fortunately, It’s usually a manageable complication. It typically disappears within 2 months after the baby is born. The following characteristics raise your risk for preeclampsia:

  • being a teenager
  • being over 40
  • having multiple pregnancies
  • obesity
  • a history of hypertension or kidney problems

The best way to find out if you have hypertension is by checking your blood pressure. 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, like those found in shopping malls and pharmacies.

You should know your usual blood pressure. Then you can seek further evaluation from your healthcare professional if you see a significant increase in this number the next time your blood pressure is checked.

If you have experienced any possible symptoms mentioned above, it’s important to tell your doctor right away. Symptoms very rarely occur with high blood pressure and could be a sign your blood pressure has been high for a long time.

Gender bias in medical diagnosis

The first step to getting the care and treatment you need is getting diagnosed. Unfortunately, this isn’t always an easy process. It can take multiple appointments, tests, and even visits to many doctors before you have answers.

For women, this process can have additional frustrations. Studies have shown that gender biases in medicine can lead to delays in care, incorrect diagnoses, and other serious concerns for women.

In conditions more often thought of men’s health conditions, such as high blood pressure, this can play an even bigger role. Doctors might not be looking for these conditions in women or might not be aware of how they present in women.

That’s why it’s important to know your own blood pressure numbers and advocate for yourself.

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Expert advice for preventing high blood pressure is the same for everyone:

  • Exercise about 30 to 45 minutes per day, 5 days a week.
  • Eat a diet that’s moderate in calories and low in saturated fats.
  • Stay current with your doctors’ appointments.

Talk with your doctor about your risk for high blood pressure. Your doctor can let you know the best ways to keep your blood pressure in the normal range and your heart healthy.

High blood pressure is often thought of as a men’s health concern, but that’s not the case. High blood pressure can impact anyone, and gender doesn’t increase or decrease your risk.

High blood pressure often has no symptoms at all and is thought of as a “silent condition.” This is true for everyone, regardless of age or gender. But that doesn’t mean it’s not serious. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to strokes, heart attack, dementia, kidney failure, and more. That’s why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked at least once a year.