Hypertension is a women’s health issue. We don’t say that enough. Also known as high blood pressure, hypertension damages not just your blood vessels, but your heart, your brain, and other vital organs. Women and men are almost at equal risk for high blood pressure during most of adulthood. However, after the onset of menopause, women experience greater risk for hypertension.
The frightening thing about hypertension is that blood pressure can increase without noticeable symptoms. You may not see or feel anything out of the ordinary until you are struck down by a stroke or heart attack. We need to talk about hypertension in women, because we can mitigate the risks and give women longer, healthier lives.
Blood Pressure, Demystified
When you sit down at the doctor’s office or your local pharmacy to have your blood pressure checked, and that cuff squeezes your arm, what is being measured, exactly? Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries. It can be confusing to try to understand those two numbers you get from the reading, but here is a simple explanation: Normal blood pressure for a healthy adult is 120/80, spoken as 120 “over” 80. The first number is called systolic blood pressure and measures when your heart contracts and pushes out blood. This second number, called diastolic pressure, measures when your heart relaxes and fills with blood.
The Importance of Regular Check-Ups
Women are so often the sole caregiver for the entire family, including elderly parents and children of all ages. Women bear the weight of emotional work for which they are not paid, and in doing so much for others, they tend to neglect themselves. We encourage women, especially those over 50, to get frequent check-ups. Visit your physician regularly to have your blood pressure checked. Early detection can mean the difference between a few modifications to your lifestyle and the other path, which can include heart attack, hospitalization, loss of job, ongoing medical issues, and death. Give yourself the attention you need and deserve. Your health matters immensely.
What You Can Do
Please remember that there are risks you cannot change entirely, such as race, age, gender, and family history. Arteries stiffen as we age, and blood pressure goes up. Some increase in those numbers are to be expected. But you have the power to lower your pressure, with a few small changes, such as cutting down on sodium, quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, exercising regularly, and managing your stress. Talk to your doctor about ways to achieve better health, and mitigate your risk of heart attack and stroke. You can do this!
At Abella Health, we encourage all of our patients to schedule routine exams, even if you feel good, eat well, exercise, and sleep eight hours every night. Of course, most of us don’t always hit all those goals for optimal health. Women especially forget to check in on themselves. Let us help you be healthy.