Symptoms of High BP in Women
High Blood Pressure And Women’s Health
For a long time there was a misconception that high blood pressure was a man’s problem and that hypertension rarely affects women. But the reality is that both men and women in their 40s, 50s and 60s have the same risk of developing high blood pressure. Data shows that nearly half of all adults with high blood pressure are women. It also shows that after age 65, women are more likely to develop high blood pressure than men.
Although high blood pressure is not gender-specific, certain health events related to women such as birth control, pregnancy and menopause can directly have a relation to high blood pressure. In fact, after menopause, women have a higher risk of getting high BP than men.
So How Do Certain Life Events Affect Women’s Health In Relation To High Blood Pressure?
- Birth Control Pills – Medical research has shown that birth control pills can cause high blood pressure in some women, especially those who have gained weight, have a family history of hypertension, have had high BP during a previous pregnancy or have a kidney problem. Women who smoke must be especially careful as cigarettes and birth control pills are a dangerous combination. So before taking oral contraceptives, women need to consult their doctor and get their blood pressure checked as well as inform themselves of the risks of taking birth control pills. It is advisable to get the blood pressure levels checked every 6 months.
- Pregnancy – If a woman already has high blood pressure (and is already taking high blood pressure medications) and plans a pregnancy, it is necessary to first consult the doctor, follow their recommendations and have them monitor the pregnancy very closely. She needs to keep in mind that pregnancy can further elevate her high blood pressure and that she must take extra precautions.
Precautions For Women With High Blood Pressure To Take Before Planning Pregnancy:
- Tell your doctor about all the medications you are taking
- Make sure the blood pressure levels are under control
- Keep a close watch on the sodium intake
- Exercise regularly
- Quit smoking (if a smoker)
- No alcohol
Women who are taking ACE inhibitors or ARBs (Angiotensin Receptor Blockers) for high blood pressure should ideally not plan a pregnancy while on this class of drugs. If some women are taking either of these and think they might be pregnant, then they need to see the doctor immediately for assessment and advice.
- Gestational Hypertension – A woman’s body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy. One such case could be of gestational hypertension. This means that the woman develops high blood pressure during her pregnancy even when she did not have high BP previously. Gestational hypertension is most likely to develop after 20 weeks of pregnancy and is a secondary type of hypertension and need to be closely monitored and treated as it can pose a risk to both the mother and baby.
- Preeclampsia – Preeclampsia, also known as toxemia of pregnancy, is a condition that is closely related to gestational hypertension and is characterized by high blood pressure and elevated protein in the urine. Preeclampsia affects almost 5 to 8 % of pregnant women and generally begins after 20th week of pregnancy. It is a serious medical condition that contributes to almost 13 % of all maternal deaths globally. Preeclampsia is usually a manageable condition that goes away two months after the birth of the baby. Teenagers, 40+ women, women with multiple pregnancies, overweight females and women with a history of hypertension and kidney problems in their family are at risk of developing preeclampsia.
- High Blood Pressure Symptoms In Women – The reason that hypertension is called a silent killer is because there are no visible symptoms. Some early signs of hypertension, that are common to both men and women are severe headaches, breathing difficulties, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, fatigue, etc. may suggest that the person might suffer from high BP. Similarly, high blood pressure symptoms in women during pregnancy are difficult to detect but there are some signs of such as abdominal pain, headaches, blurring of vision, rapid swelling (edema) etc.
- Can You Prevent Gestational Hypertension Or Preeclampsia? So far, there is no proven way or test, predict or diagnose gestational hypertension or preeclampsia. Getting the blood pressure and the protein levels in urine checked during regular doctor’s appointments is the only way to monitor and track any such conditions.
Although the risk for women to develop high blood pressure increase after menopause, a healthy high-fibre, low sodium diet foods, routine exercise and regular doctor’s appointments to monitor blood pressure can help keep the blood pressure levels in the normal and healthy range.
Note of caution: This article is for information purposes only. Always consult your doctor in case of any blood pressure or other health-related problems.