Most women start out with lower blood pressure when they’re young. In fact, in your 20s, your pressure can be significantly lower than a man’s at the same age.
However, once you hit your 30s, that pressure might start creeping up without you even noticing.
And according to a new study, if your blood pressure is even mildly elevated by the time you’re in your 40s, it could spell big problems for your heart.
Double the risk of heart attack
You might be surprised to learn that previous studies have found that high blood pressure is a stronger risk factor for heart disease in women than in men.
It’s bizarre because, even though women start out with lower blood pressure than their male counterparts, once it starts going up, so does the danger (and far more steeply than for men).
The problem is that doctors are still following guidelines that define high blood pressure as the same level for both sexes. This means that as a woman, your blood pressure has to rise a lot more before your doctor takes notice or action.
This was worrying to researchers at the University of Bergen, Norway. And it’s why they set out to investigate whether mildly elevated blood pressure (130-139/80-89 mmHg) was a stronger risk factor for acute coronary syndromes in women than in men. Compare this to the traditional definition of high blood pressure at 140/90 mmHg or higher!
The researchers measured the blood pressure of 6,381 women and 5,948 men participating in the community-based Hordaland Health Study starting at the age of 41. And they followed them for a full 16 years to watch for heart attacks.
And their results clearly showed that for women, having only mildly elevated blood pressure was associated with double the risk of acute coronary syndromes during midlife.
In other words, blood pressure that’s even a bit higher than normal in your 40s can double your risk of a heart attack in your 50s!
This association was not found in men after adjusting for other cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Don’t ignore your blood pressure
The most important takeaway?
Even if you feel healthy, have your blood pressure checked regularly. And if you have additional risk factors that could lead to heart problems, more intense monitoring is in order.
Risk factors to be aware of include:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Pregnancy complications
- Parents with high blood pressure
That last one is very important. If you’ve read posts by my colleague and EHO editor, Virginia Tims-Lawson, you’ll know her family history of heart problems is what propelled her into natural health research.
She is an excellent source for information on how to keep your blood pressure in the normal range, starting with suggestions like adding more flavonoid foods to your diet to lower blood pressure and heart attack and stroke risk.
Of course, try to maintain healthy body weight, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to keep your BP in the green zone. Also, ditch the cigarettes if you smoke and avoid consuming too much alcohol and salt.
Remember, even mild elevations in your blood pressure in early and mid-life should not be ignored.
Editor’s note: Uncover the myths surrounding hypertension and get the truth about easy, effective strategies for controlling blood pressure. Click here to discover Natural Ways to Reverse and Prevent Hypertension!
High Blood Pressure – American Heart Association
Acute Coronary Syndrome – Mayo Clinic