High blood pressure affects men and women differently​

When it comes to hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, one should be aware of some of the differences between men and women. High blood pressure is more common in men as compared to women before the age of 50 years old. However, after the age of 55 years old, high blood pressure is more common among women than men.

High blood pressure complications for men and women

High blood pressure complications include heart attacks and stroke. Studies have shown that such complications are significantly lower in women, especially in women who have not undergone menopause. Between these two complications, the reduction in heart attacks is much more prominent.

When comparing men and women between 40 and 70 years old with similar degrees of high blood pressure, women have lower complication risks than men. Therefore, to have similar damage to organs and blood vessels in women, a greater blood pressure load is required.

Screening for high blood pressure

It is thus important to go for regular blood pressure screening, especially if you are a young or middle-aged man (20s to early 40s) or a post-menopausal woman.

“Some people believe that high blood pressure is an old man’s disease. While older people have a greater risk of this, younger men in their 30s and 40s often suffer from the disease without knowing it,” says Dr Ian Phoon, Associate Consultant, SingHealth Polyclinics – Pasir Ris, a member of the SingHealth group. This is because high blood pressure is a “silent killer” with no obvious symptoms.

“Despite gender differences in the age-related risk of high blood pressure, both men and women are diagnosed and treated in the same way”, adds Dr Phoon.

How is high blood pressure measured?

Blood pressure measures how hard the heart has to work to pump blood through the arteries. Blood pressure is recorded as an upper (systolic) reading over a lower (diastolic) reading.

The systolic reading is the pressure in the arteries (measured in millimeters of mercury, or mm Hg) when the heart squeezes. The diastolic reading is the pressure when the heart relaxes. A person with a blood pressure reading of 1​40/90 mm Hg or higher is said to have high blood pressure. As long as either the systolic and/or the diastolic pressures are high, the person has high blood pressure.

Having untreated high blood pressure can double your risk of getting a stroke  and heart attack, and increase your chance of kidney failure.

Why do younger men develop high blood pressure?

Obesity, work stress, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption (more than 2 drinks per day) and high salt intake are likely causes for the rise in high blood pressure in men under age 45.

Younger men with high blood pressure may have metabolic syndrome (abdominal obesity) which is linked to heart diseases and diabetes​.

Read on to find out how high blood pressure affects women and tips to control blood pressure​.

Ref: T12