American Heart Association: What Women Need to Know About High Blood Pressure

By Heidi McPherson, Sr. Director, Healthcare Systems & Community Impact, American Heart Association
July 15, 2020

One in two women have high blood pressure. For women aged 65 and older, they are more likely than men have high blood pressure. While high blood pressure is not directly related to gender, throughout a woman’s life, including pregnancy, pregnancy prevention (birth control) and menopause can increase a woman’s risk of developing high blood pressure. While high blood pressure is a known as the “silent killer,” it is also something that can be improved with lifestyle changes. Everyone is encouraged to know their individual risk factors and commit to a plan to lower their blood pressure.

Go Red for Women

The American Heart Association’s mission is to be a relentless force for longer, healthier lives. Go Red for Women® is dedicated entirely to promoting awareness about a woman’s health, including that she should take charge of her own heart health as well as her loved ones.

The signs and symptoms of women experiencing heart attack are different than men. While the most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort, women are somewhat more likely than men to experience other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. If you are experiencing any of these signs, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.

Pregnancy and High Blood Pressure

If a woman is thinking about becoming pregnant, she should talk with her physician or medical care provider. She should know her blood pressure and what those numbers mean. If she has elevated or high blood pressure, her physician can talk with her about the activities within her power to improve her own health and her own body, which may include limiting the amount of sodium in her diet, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, being active and getting fresh air, not smoking, and for some, may include medication and ensuring she has the correct blood pressure medication for her. Your healthcare provider can also connect you to local community resources to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy.

During pregnancy, some women may develop gestational hypertension or preeclampsia. There is no proven way to prevent, predict or diagnose either of these conditions. At a woman’s prenatal visits, her doctor will track her blood pressure to confirm she is having a safe pregnancy and advise her on appropriate next steps.

To assist you in talking to your physician about high blood pressure, the American Heart Association has a list of questions you can take to your next appointment, to ensure you are advocating for your health and that of your baby.