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High blood pressure is a serious medical condition that can affect men and women differently. Read on to find out how and why.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure is not an uncommon medical condition in Singapore. While most of us are aware of the general consequences of having high blood pressure, did you know that there are, in fact, differences in how high blood pressure affects men and women?
As a rule of thumb, you should know that you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if your blood pressure is between 130/80 to 139/89 mm Hg. Beyond this point, if your blood pressure rises to 140/90 mm Hg and above, you would have developed high blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure: Is it More Common in Men or Women?
It is well known that hypertension is a leading risk factor for heart disease and other related serious medical conditions such as stroke. Typically, regardless of sex, the older you are, the higher risk of hypertension you have.
One study has demonstrated that, overall, the prevalence of hypertension is higher in men than in women, regardless of age group. Further interesting patterns and gender disparities emerge, however, when we take into consideration different age groups.
Other studies have shown that men younger than 65 consistently exhibit higher levels of hypertension than women in the same age group. Such gender differences are particularly pronounced in early adulthood.
This pattern, however, reverses later in life. After the age of 60, women are more likely to have hypertension than men in the same age group.
Suffice to say then, your risk profile for hypertension changes depending on your gender and age and you should take them into consideration as you evaluate your medical situation. Regardless of our risk profile, it is wise to always be on the lookout for high blood pressure.
There are also several risk factors that account for these gender differences in high blood pressure and why men generally have a higher risk of hypertension than women. They can be categorised into biological and behavioral risk factors.
Biological risk factors include:
- Sex hormones
- Chromosomal differences
- Biological differences that offer protection against high blood pressure in women
Behavioural risk factors include:
- High Body Mass Index (BM)
- Low physical activity
Behavioural risk factors can either help reduce the risk posed by biological factors, or increase it, depending on the behaviours of individuals. For instance, men who abstain from smoking and exercise regularly with a low BMI may have a lower risk profile for high blood pressure even if their biological risk factors are high. Conversely women who smoke and have sedentary lifestyles coupled with high BMIs, may have a higher risk profile for high blood pressure, even if their biological risk is inherently lower.
General Health Complications for High Blood Pressure in Both Men and Women
Both men and women can suffer from the same general health complications when high blood pressure is left untreated.
Here are some of them:
- Heart Disease
- Heart Attacks
- Heart Failure
- Peripheral Arterial Disease
- Aortic Aneurysms
- Kidney Disease
- Vascular Dementia
These complications can be life-threatening themselves and should be taken seriously by both men and women.
Generally speaking, however, men are at higher risk of developing these complications from high blood pressure than women. Women who have not had menopause, are in fact, also at especially lower risk than men of developing these complications.
Health Complications for High Blood Pressure in Men
While both men and women can suffer the same health complications from high blood pressure, the health complications for high blood pressure specific to men can affect them significantly.
According to research presented at the European Society of Cardiology, it was found that men with untreated high blood pressure have poorer penile blood flow than those with normal blood pressure.
In fact, men with hypertension are twice as likely to have impaired penile blood flow and erectile dysfunction than men with normal blood pressure. Their risk of heart disease and death is also increased.
Why does this happen specifically for men? Well, high blood pressure causes damage to arterial walls, causing your arteries to narrow and harden. In the case of men, this unfortunately has the side effect of reducing blood flow to the penis. Men with erectile dysfunction should be aware that it is a possible early warning sign of damaged blood vessels caused by high blood pressure.
Depending on the stage of hypertension that you’re in, the anti-hypertension medicine that you’re prescribed to manage your condition could also have different impacts on your penile blood flow and thus sexual functioning.
If you feel that your high blood pressure is causing erectile dysfunction or impeding your sexual function you should consult your doctor as early as possible to figure out the next best course of action, whether it be a relook of your medication regime or change in lifestyle habits.
Health Complications for High Blood Pressure in Women
While high blood pressure in women doesn’t quite have the same potential to lead to sexual dysfunction as it does in men, that doesn’t mean it does not present unique health complications for women too.
There are forms of high blood pressure in women that can occur exclusively for women. They include:
- Hypertension related to menopause
- Oral contraceptive use-induced hypertension
- Pregnancy-related hypertension
- Chronic hypertension
- Gestational hypertension
It’s also important to note that generally, blood pressure control becomes more difficult as we age, especially for women.
Women should pay attention to changes in their reproductive cycle and health during pregnancy to keep an eye out for high blood pressure. In fact, it’s best to consult a doctor if you feel that you’re experiencing any of these sex-specific complications of high blood pressure.
How to Keep High Blood Pressure in Check
There are many ways to reduce your high blood pressure.
Some easy lifestyle measures that you can take keep high blood pressure in check include:
- Maintaining a healthy BMI through weight loss
- Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products
- Avoid eating saturated fat and total fat
- Reduce your sodium intake
- Quit smoking
- Exercise regularly, especially with aerobic physical activity
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
- Avoid excessive caffeine consumption
- Avoid drugs that increase blood pressure
For the most effective results, you should consult a doctor or medical professional to come up with a suitable high blood pressure management plan together. Our Homage Care advisors and specialists are also always available to help you—simply download our app and get in touch with us to begin finding out how to manage your high blood pressure.
Awareness of High Blood Pressure
One major public health problem with high blood pressure regardless of sex and age, is awareness. A 2019 study in Singapore found that 49% of participants who had high blood pressure were unaware of it. Younger age was additionally found to be associated with unawareness.
Regardless of our risk profile, we should take proactive care of our health and take charge in living a healthy life. It’s important to ensure that we do not underestimate our risk profile for high blood pressure or any other disease for that matter.
Therefore, it’s best that we arrange for regular blood pressure screening tests as deemed appropriate in consultation with a doctor.
If you’d like further guided support and tailored advice on your risk profile for high blood pressure, or you’re thinking about formulating a high blood pressure management plan, Homage can help. Their Care Advisors and Specialists are available 24/7 at 6100 0055.