High blood pressure presents big risks and challenges for both sexes, but there are some special considerations for women. The risk profiles, lifestyle concerns and medical problems associated with hypertension in women can differ from those of men – especially as women age or during pregnancy. Being aware of these differences can help maximize the treatment options and aid prevention of this silent and deadly condition.

High blood pressure during pregnancy

According to WN.com (World News), pregnancy-induced hypertension will occur in around 10 percent of pregnancies, a condition which is a major cause of maternal and fetal deaths. The cause however is still unknown although researchers at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute uncovered evidence that an enzyme in the uterus may be an underlying cause.

High blood pressure during pregnancy is referred to as gestational hypertension. It can be a mild issue posing little threat to mother and baby, or it can be more serious, requiring treatment to ensure there are no harmful complications. Preeclampsia and eclampsia are two conditions that may develop in certain women with gestational hypertension, both of which need addressing urgently. The way gestational high blood pressure is different to the way in which routine hypertension is treated outside of pregnancy.
When choosing a treatment plan whether high blood pressure existed before the pregnancy needs to be taken into consideration, as well as how far along the pregnancy is and how well the baby is doing. Bed rest has long been prescribed, however very little solid evidence exists that this is effective. Some clinical studies have taken place, but as yet no large body of research has been produced. Short term drug therapy does help to moderate blood pressure during pregnancy – however this is usually only reserved for cases where blood pressure is very high, typically at least 150/100 mmHg. The medications usually used include beta blockers and a calcium channel blocker.

Almost all women with uncomplicated hypertension during pregnancy go on to have a normal birth. Where blood pressure has been very high, or where preeclampsia has occurred early delivery is often considered. Where, even more seriously, eclampsia is diagnosed early delivery is nearly always recommended.

Older women and hypertension

As women age, they need to pay more attention to blood pressure according to a Harvard Women’s Health Watch Report.
The older a women is, the greater her chances of developing hypertension. Affecting just 13% of women under age 44, in contrast nearly half of all women in their 60s and 80% of those aged over 75 develop the condition. In fact according to the report, high blood pressure is the main condition for which women seek treatment as they age.
The reason behind the rise in BP as women get older is believed to be down to hormones, although it can also be exacerbated by poor lifestyle choices and some medications. In order to keep blood pressure under control the advice for women is the same as for men – avoid tobacco, exercise more and cut back on salt.

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