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Gender-Specific Hypertension Risks in Women

Over one billion people live with hypertension globally. Many living with hypertension are unaware that they are hypertensive. Hypertension is associated with irregularity in blood pressure. Stage 1 Hypertension is defined as a consistent systolic blood pressure reading of 130 to 139 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure reading of 80 to 89 mm Hg. Stage 2 Hypertension involves a consistent systolic blood pressure reading of 140 mm Hg or higher and consistent diastolic blood pressure reading of 90 mm Hg or higher. If hypertension is not controlled, it can impact the heart, brain, blood vessels, and kidneys. Uncontrolled hypertension can result in more extreme outcomes such as cardiovascular disease and premature death.

Although hypertension is more prevalent in men than women in Canada, some conditions or life stages increase the risk of hypertension in women. One particular risk factor is age; after age 65, women are at higher risk of hypertension than men. Approximately 23% of Canadian women aged 20 to 79 were living with hypertension between 2012 and 2015, while 69% of Canadian women aged 70 to 79 had hypertension in that same time period.

Some risk factors associated with increased risk of hypertension in women include:

  • Being post-menopause - estrogen levels decrease as women age, leading to women over 65 having a higher risk of developing hypertension than men

  • The use of oral contraceptives (especially when paired with smoking)

  • Having a higher percentage of body fat (i.e., visceral fat) - women are more likely to carry excess body fat than men

  • Gestational hypertension - hypertension induced by pregnancy; it affects 8% of pregnant women, often during their first pregnancy

Being being aware of and getting a timely diagnosis is critical to managing and controlling hypertension.

For more information on blood pressure reading: Understanding Blood Pressure Readings


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