High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the most common chronic illness in America. It is referred to as the “Silent Killer” because nearly one third of Americans with hypertension are not aware that they have it. Indeed, symptoms of hypertension are not usually present until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. Uncontrolled hypertension is one of the leading preventable causes of death or disability due to stroke, heart attack, heart and kidney failure, and irreversible eye damage.
The likelihood for a woman of developing hypertension increases if she had hypertension during pregnancy, uses birth control pills, smokes, or has a family history of hypertension. Moreover, women who have gained over 15 pounds during adulthood have a 70% increased risk of developing hypertension.
An ideal blood pressure is considered less than 120/80 mmHg. Blood pressure medications should be considered if one’s blood pressure is consistently greater than 140/90 mmHg. Women should take an active role in measuring and recording their blood pressure on a regular basis. This will provide valuable data to review with their physicians and determine if treatment is needed. Not only is it important to diagnose hypertension, but it is also imperative to document whether the recommended treatment is effective in order to get the right treatment.
Means to control hypertension involve not only medications but also behavioral modifications such as reducing salt in the diet, limiting alcohol consumption, using caution with anti-inflammatory medications, treating sleep apnea, weight loss and regular exercise. With a few exceptions, hypertension is not curable— but it is treatable and it can be controlled. Don’t wait for warning symptoms to appear. Monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis. Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease!
About Tracy Stevens, M.D.:
Tracy Stevens, M.D. serves on the Scientific Advisory Council for WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. She is a Board Certified Cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri and the Medical Director of the Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center.