How blood pressure patterns differ for men and women

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women. However, a recent study suggests that women should especially be careful and keep an eye on their blood pressure.

According to a report published in JAMA Cardiology, “high blood pressure, one of the most important controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease, begins at a younger age in women than in men and rises faster.”

Why might this be the case?

“There are differences in blood pressure patterns between men and women,” says Dr. Rashmi Raghuvir, a cardiologist from Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “Younger women who have hypertension during pregnancy are prone to earlier development of high blood pressure. Estrogen imbalance states, such as, polycystic ovarian disease, infertility and premature ovarian failure also cause earlier development of hypertension.”

Dr. Raghuvir also says the risk factors for men and women differ.

“Women with hypertension tend to have more nontraditional risk factors, like abdominal obesity and kidney disease,” he says, “while men with hypertension are often smokers with high cholesterol.”

Making lifestyle changes can help maintain a healthy blood pressure. Dr. Raghuvir suggests trying these tips:

  • Low sodium diets
  • Keep weight and body mass index in a healthy range
  • Combine aerobic exercise and mild resistance training exercise most days of the week for at least 30 minutes
  • Reduce consumption of alcoholic drinks to no more than 1 per day

Dr. Raghuvir recommends making lifestyle changes first. But if they don’t work, talking to your doctor to find a medication that can be paired with healthy habits may prove more effective.

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