Hypertension: Women more at risk than men

Cardiovascular diseases used to be considered a typical “man’s disease” – but this is not the case.

Women are more at risk, especially when it comes to one of the biggest risk factors for heart attacks and strokes, high blood pressure.

This warning is now issued by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) on the occasion of World Hypertension Day on Wednesday. Cardiovascular diseases are the most common cause of death in women, said Angela Maas, former director of the cardiological women’s health program at the Radboud-MedUni in Nijmegen in the Netherlands. The risk of these diseases increases in women with lower blood pressure than in men.

“My message: women should know their blood pressure values, take them seriously and get their doctors to initiate treatment in the event of elevated values,” says Maas.

Every third woman affected

One in three women worldwide suffers from high blood pressure. “Despite the importance of hypertension, it is often underestimated in women and often undertreated in comparison to men. One of the reasons is that in the under 50 age group, men are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure. After menopause in women, however, this is reversed. From the age of 65, women are more often affected,” says Maas.

There is also a complication of untreated hypertension that is characteristic of women: a form of heart failure caused by a stiff heart muscle. In addition, the overall risk of stroke in women increases when blood pressure values are lower than in men. Elevated blood pressure triples the risk of developing chronic heart failure (the organ does not pump properly) for women. In men, this “only” manifests itself in a doubling of the frequency.

While hypertension is currently defined in Europe as a systolic blood pressure value of more than 140 mmHg and more than 90 mmHg diastolic (upper/lower value), women under 80 years of age and their doctors should become suspicious from values of 130 mmHg. Several measurements are necessary for a hypertension diagnosis. Expert discussions have been going on for a long time about whether the applicable target values should not be further reduced.

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