About 11 million Americans with high blood pressure don’t know they have the condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This silent killer raises the likelihood of a heart attack, heart failure and stroke when not caught early enough or treated appropriately. The stakes might be even higher for women, who often don’t realize they’re at risk. Increase these risks even more for Black women; we develop high blood pressure earlier in life and have higher average blood pressures compared with our white counterparts.
In fact, a recent study found hypertension affected 49 percent of young Black women, versus 28 percent of our white peers. Women in the sample study included 442 women between the ages of 18 to 35 and found that even after adjusting for factors like age, marital status, annual income and education, black women had a risk 74 percent greater than white women.
Science doesn’t yet understood how high blood pressure progresses in women versus men, but some research suggests there might be key differences.
One study found blood pressure starts rising earlier and advances faster in women. That’s why women should pay closer attention to their blood pressure. Early detection and treatment of hypertension in young women is key.
Here’s what women need to know about blood pressure to be proactive about their health:
- Women are at risk for health complications related to blood pressure. High blood pressure could be even more serious for young women than young men, according to another recent study. The study found women’s blood vessels age faster than men’s, meaning a 30-year-old woman with hypertension is probably more likely to develop cardiovascular problems than her male counterpart. Research confirms that women have different biology and physiology than their male counterparts, and it also illustrates why women may be more susceptible to developing certain types of blood pressure-related cardiovascular disease.
- Regular blood pressure checks are key. According to the American Heart Association, women should have their blood pressure should be checked annually. Many young women don’t get their blood pressure read as often as they should, usually because they see an OB-GYN for primary care.
- Women need to advocate for themselves. One high reading might not necessarily signal a problem, but when women have their blood pressure read, elevated results can be dismissed. Hypertension is often underrecognized and undertreated, likely because implicit bias makes most providers assume all young women are healthy. It’s imperative that women arm themselves with facts, especially knowing their medical health history, and be ready to ask questions or get a second medical opinion.
- Prevention is important. Interventions and lifestyle changes can make a big difference in keeping blood pressure within the healthy range. Obesity, a major issue for Black women, increases hypertension risk, and women are more likely to be obese than men, so women should maintain a healthy wait. Other preventive actions include: