Cardiovascular diseases used to be considered typical “men’s diseases,” – but this is not the case. Women are at greater risk, especially for one of the most significant risk factors for heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure.
There is now this warning from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) on World Hypertension Day on Wednesday. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, said Angela Maas, former director of the cardiology women’s health program at Radboud MedUni in Nijmegen in the Netherlands. She said the risk for these diseases increases in women even with lower blood pressure than men.
“My message is that women should know their blood pressure levels, take them seriously and get their doctors to initiate treatment in case of elevated levels,” Maas said.
One in three women is affected.
One in three women worldwide suffers from hypertension. “Despite the importance of hypertension, it is often underestimated in women and often inadequately treated in them compared to men. One of the reasons is that in the age group below 50 years, men are more likely to suffer from hypertension. However, this reverses after the menopause in women. From the age of 65, women are then more frequently affected,” says Maas.
A complication of inadequately treated hypertension characteristic of women is heart failure caused by a stiffened heart muscle. In addition, the overall risk of stroke increases in women even at lower blood pressure levels than in men. Elevated blood pressure triples the risk of developing chronic heart failure (pumping weakness of the organ) for women. For men, it “only” doubles the incidence.
While currently, in Europe, hypertension is defined from systolic blood pressure values of more than 140 mmHg and more than 90 mmHg diastolic (upper/lower); women under 80 years of age and their physicians should be suspicious of values of 130 mmHg. Several measurements are necessary for a hypertension diagnosis. The expert discussion has been about whether the current target values should not be lowered further.