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Like heart disease, hypertension (otherwise known in layman’s terms as high blood pressure) is thought to be a man’s disease. The truth of the matter is, however, that hypertension is a serious health concern for women. Because it is so often associated with men, many doctors overlook cases of hypertension in women, and women often do not get the treatment they need until damage has been done to their bodies. The medical community is beginning to wake up and understand the risks women face due to hypertension and are being more attentive to identifying it and treating it. However, as a woman, it is important to be aware of your own body and understand your own health red flags so you can be vocal and active about getting the treatment you need.
First, the tough part about hypertension in women is that it usually does not have any symptoms. Occasionally, people with high blood pressure get nose bleeds, but nose bleeds caused by hypertension usually only happen in very extreme cases. The best way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to get your blood pressure checked. That can mean going to the doctor on a regular basis, or it can be something as simple as checking your blood pressure yourself in the monitoring machines you often see at drug stores. Anything above a reading of 140/90 qualifies as a diagnosis of high blood pressure; a reading above 120/80 is considered to be pre-hypertension.
Of course, you can have one high blood pressure reading and not be suffering from hypertension. Some people panic when they see their doctor, which makes their blood pressure increase in the doctor’s office. Sometimes you may just be having an off day, and your blood pressure reading will be off. To diagnose high blood pressure, doctors look for a pattern of high readings that cannot be explained by external factors. Additionally, doctors match high blood pressure readings with other risk factors, like being overweight, a family history of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and other health problems. High readings combined with other risk factors generally push a diagnosis forward.
It is important to know that once you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure that you will be dealing with it for life. All treatment choices you make will have to be followed for the rest of your life to keep the disease in check. In most instances, your doctor will start out by having you try to control your high blood pressure through dietary means. Eating low fat, low sodium, high fiber diet may help control high blood pressure. Exercise is believed to help keep blood pressure in check. Drinking alcohol to excess can make your blood pressure higher, so your doctor will want you to control your drinking. Of course, smoking makes high blood pressure even worse, so you should give up the cigarettes.
If these changes don’t help, or they don’t do enough, then your doctor will start you on blood pressure controlling medication. There are many different kinds of medications that can help get your blood pressure down, so your doctor will work with you to find one that works well for you and gives you the least amount of side effects.
One special word of caution that affects women with high blood pressure – women with hypertension should never take birth control pills. Though estrogen is thought to give younger women some measure of protection against high blood pressure, birth control pills increase the risk of high blood pressure and related problems, like blood clots. Smoking, with high blood pressure, while being on birth control pills is a disaster for women’s health, so you should make sure to avoid combining these things.
on Nov 2 2010. Filed under Weight, Women.
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