What both women and men need to know about hypertension

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 68 million Americans have high blood pressure, or hypertension- and 20 percent of them don’t know it. Because untreated hypertension can lead to numerous health problems-including increased risk of heart attack and stroke- with no warning signs, it is often referred to as a silent killer.

You can have high blood pressure for years without any symptoms, says Dr. Merle Myerson, director or the St. Lukes and Roosevelt Hospitals Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in New York and a member of the American Society of Hypertension community outreach committee. Thats why its important to have your blood pressure tested regularly.

Risk factors include age, race, family history, obesity, chronic stress, alcohol and tobacco use, and diet- particularly sodium intake.

Not just a mans disease

Among people younger than 45, hypertension is more common in men, But after age 65, the disease affects more women. According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of all adults with hypertension are women. So its vital for both men and women to be proactive and learn about their numbers, risk factors and treatment options.

Women have unique risk factors for hypertension. Birth control pills can affect blood pressure, so discuss use of oral contraceptives with your health care provider and monitor your blood pressure while using them, says Myerson. For women who may become pregnant, it is important to know if your blood pressure is too high and have a treatment plan, In addition, some women become hypertensive during pregnancy. This is a condition that requires working closely with your doctor to prevent problems.

Better numbers

You can help control your blood pressure by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, managing your weight and stress levels, avoiding tobacco use, and limiting alcohol consumption. In combination with healthy lifestyle and appropriate prescription medications, these supplements can help support healthy circulation:

  • Coenzyme Q10
  • L-arginine
  • Green tea
  • Garlic

Myerson adds, Staying educated about the disease and having regular doctor visits are keys to hypertension detection and prevention.

Know your numbers

Systolic:

  • Normal 120
  • Prehypertension 139
  • Stage 1 Hypertension 159
  • Stage 2 Hypertension 160

Diastolic:

  • Normal 80
  • Prehypertension 89
  • Stage 1 Hypertension 99
  • Stage 2 Hypertension 100