The Perils of Hypertension in Women

  • Apr 24, 2019
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High BP is A SILENT KILLER – because it kills without  noticeable symptoms.

By Dr Gaurangi Shah

High blood pressure (or hypertension) is a serious ailment affecting millions worldwide, including women. Termed a ‘silent killer’, many persons have the dangerous disease but aren’t aware about this. Left untreated over the years, it could strike suddenly with dangerous consequences such as stroke(paralysis), heart attacks,heart failure, blindness and kidney failutre.

Almost everyone is at risk of developing BP, although some have higher chances of falling victim, including those with a family history of hypertension and people more than 55 years of age. Others at risk include those who:

  • Are overweight / obese
  • Consume excess salt
  • Don’t exercise regularly
  • Smoke heavily
  • Indulge in alcohol abuse

Most people with high BP may not notice any signs. Indeed, in 85% of cases, there may be no overt symptoms. It’s only when the person suffers a heart attack or paralytic stroke that the underlying cause is clear.

Some symptoms of high BP include:

  • Severe headache
  • Blurry vision
  • Confusion or fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Pounding in the chest, neck or ears

It is crucial to understand the causes of BP, which can be hereditary or non-hereditary. In the former, it generally manifests between 40 and 60 years of age. In non-hereditary cases, it usually arises before age 40 or after age 60. In the latter, the person should visit a cardiologist or endocrinologist to discover the cause of high BP. If the underlying cause is addressed, it may be possible to eliminate hypertension.

In the case of many Indian women who are home-makers, do not take regular walks and are fond of salty food items such as namkeens, the risks of developing high BP without being aware are much higher. Normally, BP should not exceed 120/80 mm. Therefore, it’s important to check one’s BP regularly.

If a woman has just been diagnosed with BP, it should be checked twice daily during the initial period. First, immediately after waking up and second, in the evening. Note that BP in the evening/night may be 10mm higher than the morning. Moreover, like diabetes, high BP is a multi-organ disease affecting all vital organs, including the eyes. Therefore, it’s safer to have eye tests annually to prevent blindness.

When pregnant, women must monitor BP as advised by their doctor. High BP in pregnant women is termed preeclampsia or toxaemia. The doctor will prescribe daily medications to control high BP. As per activities undertaken, BP can rise and dip throughout the day. But the risk arises if the pressure stays high for some time. If the pressure goes beyond 140/90 for prolonged periods, treatment is required. If there are other risk factors such as diabetes and the blood pressure stays higher than 120/80, treatment may still be needed.

Women can ascertain high BP does not become a silent killer by:

  • Monitoring BP daily
  • Exercising regularly
  • Ensuring low salt intake
  • Keeping bodyweight at healthy levels
  • Abstaining from cigarettes/tobacco/alcohol
  • Having regular/annual medical check-ups

Meanwhile, continue taking brisk walks for 30–45 minutes daily, which is the best way to control your weight, BP and other lifestyle ailments. Best of all, remember your daily walks are free!

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