High Blood Pressure and Women: 4 Issues You Need to Know About
Although high blood pressure affects both men and women, there are a number of concerns particularly relating to women that are worth mentioning.
Many pregnant women with high blood pressure will go on to have healthy babies without serious problems. But, having high blood pressure can be dangerous for both mother and baby.
High blood pressure occurs in 6 to 8 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S., about 70 percent of which are first-time pregnancies.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure pre-pregnancy, it’s more likely that you will experience certain complications during pregnancy. However, it’s also the case that some women develop high blood pressure while they are pregnant.
Why is high blood pressure dangerous during pregnancy?
- May harm the mother's kidneys and other organs.
- Can cause low birth weight and early delivery.
- May lead to preeclampsia (increased blood pressure and protein in the urine).
While there is no proven way to prevent preeclampsia, close monitoring can help to prevent serious problems. You should also try to avoid gaining too much weight during your pregnancy.
Remember careful treatment will help to ensure you have a normal pregnancy, so don’t allow yourself to get stressed out.
2. Oral Contraceptives
Most contraceptive pills contain a synthetic mixture of estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone which may affect blood pressure, and this may range from very mild to potentially serious.
Many women using oral contraceptives will experience a small but detectable increase in their blood pressure. However, if you are aged 35 years or older and you smoke, you are at an even greater risk for heart disease and stroke, and are therefore encouraged to quit smoking.
If you cannot quit smoking, it’s advisable to talk to your doctor about using another form of contraception.
During a woman’s reproductive life she is at a lower risk of developing high blood pressure because of the protective effects of estrogen.
However during menopause, as the levels of estrogen decrease, the risk of developing high blood pressure increases dramatically. In fact, post-menopausal women are at a greater risk for developing high blood pressure than men.
4. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
It was previously thought that HRT therapy would lead to a blood pressure increase, however there is no evidence to suggest that taking HRT increases your blood pressure.
A 2001 article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded, "Postmenopausal women taking HRT have a smaller increase in systolic blood pressure over time than those not taking HRT. This difference is intensified at older ages."
Again it is recommended that all women being treated with HRT should have their blood pressure monitored frequently. If you are concerned, do discuss the matter with you doctor.
So, what can women do to help control high blood pressure? You should try to keep your blood pressure under control by:
- Making lifestyle changes such as limiting salt intake, eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise, and losing weight if necessary.
- Avoiding alcohol and tobacco.
- Attending regular GP check-ups.
- Talking to your doctor about any over the counter medications you are taking, or are thinking taking.