Who is at risk for developing high blood pressure?
One in three American adults has high blood pressure, including 36 million American women. Many factors affect your risk of developing high blood pressure. Other than being more common the older you get, your risk of developing high blood pressure also increases if you:
- Are overweight or obese
- Don't get enough exercise
- Have an unhealthy diet
- Have a family history of high blood pressure
- Are African American
- Have diabetes
- Have high cholesterol
- Drink too much alcohol
Can hormone therapy and birth control affect blood pressure in women?
While it is unusual, your blood pressure may go up if you are taking birth control pills or hormone therapy (HT) for menopausal symptoms, so it is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Women who take birth control pills are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop high blood pressure; this risk increases with age and obesity.11
How can I prevent high blood pressure?
If you don't have high blood pressure now, you can take steps to prevent it. While you can't do anything about some risk factors for high blood pressure (such as age, family history, and race), there are other risk factors you can reduce by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle. These include being overweight, being inactive and not exercising regularly, and eating a diet high in salt and fat. You can help prevent high blood pressure by taking the following steps:
- Control your weight or lose weight if you are overweight. Losing even 10 pounds will help. Calculate your BMI here
- Exercise regularly—30 minutes of moderate exercise a day most days of the week is best.
- Follow a healthy eating plan, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables and low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and limit the amounts of saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol.
- Limit your daily intake of sodium to less than 2400 mg (about ¾ teaspoon of salt). This includes the salt you add from the salt shaker and the salt that is already in prepared foods. Read product labels so you know what you are eating. If you would like to try a salt substitute, talk with your health care provider first because they may be harmful to people with certain medical conditions.
- Aim to consume at least 3500 mg of potassium per day. Foods rich in potassium include bananas, cantaloupe, broccoli, and peas.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For women, that means no more than 1 drink per day, equivalent to 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces (a "shot") of 80-proof liquor.
- If you are taking birth control pills or hormone therapy, get regular blood pressure checks from your health care provider to find and control a blood pressure problem.
- If you smoke, quit. While smoking doesn't cause high blood pressure, it can temporarily raise blood pressure and cause hardening of the arteries
Talk with your health care provider if you need help with these steps or have any questions or concerns. For more information on medication to treat high blood pressure, click here.
Can controlling my high blood pressure lower my risk of heart failure?
Controlling high blood pressure offers one of the earliest opportunities to prevent heart failure.2, 3 Lowering high blood pressure can keep your heart from having to work too hard to pump blood and becoming damaged, cutting your risk of developing heart failure in half.2, 12, 13 It can also reduce the heart failure risk by 80% in people with isolated systolic hypertension (ISH) who have had a heart attack; no women-specific data were provided.14 ISH is a form of high blood pressure in which the top (systolic) number is high (more than 160 mm Hg) but the bottom (diastolic) number is normal (less than 90 mm Hg). Approximately 30% of women over the age of 65 have ISH.15
If high blood pressure is not treated, it can accelerate the stiffening of large arteries and bring about increasing systolic high blood pressure, eventually leading to heart failure.13, 16
- Chobanian AV, Bakris GL, Black HR, et al. Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Hypertension. December 1, 2003;42(6):1206-1252.
- Prevent and Control America's High Blood Pressure: Mission Possible. March 2004; NIH Publication No. 04-5072. Available at: http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/mission/aboutmp/action_paper.pdf. Accessed June 10, 2008.
- Levy D, Larson MG, Vasan RS, Kannel WB, Ho KK. The progression from hypertension to congestive heart failure. JAMA. May 22-29 1996;275(20):1557-1562.
- Hunt SA. ACC/AHA 2005 Guideline Update for the Diagnosis and Management of Chronic Heart Failure in the Adult: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines (Writing Committee to Update the 2001 Guidelines for the Evaluation and Management of Heart Failure). J Am Coll Cardiol. September 20, 2005;46(6):e1-82.
- Vasan RS, Larson MG, Leip EP, et al. Impact of High-Normal Blood Pressure on the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease. N Engl J Med. November 1, 2001;345(18):1291-1297.
- Drazner MH, Dries DL, Peshock RM, et al. Left Ventricular Hypertrophy Is More Prevalent in Blacks Than Whites in the General Population: The Dallas Heart Study. Hypertension. July 1, 2005;46(1):124-129.
- Kizer JR, Arnett DK, Bella JN, et al. Differences in Left Ventricular Structure Between Black and White Hypertensive Adults: The Hypertension Genetic Epidemiology Network Study. Hypertension. June 1, 2004;43(6):1182-1188.
- Statistical Fact Sheet--Populations: Women and Cardiovascular Disease: American Heart Association; 2006.
- Vasan RS, Beiser A, Seshadri S, et al. Residual Lifetime Risk for Developing Hypertension in Middle-aged Women and Men: The Framingham Heart Study. JAMA. February 27, 2002;287(8):1003-1010.
- Lund LH, Mancini D. Heart failure in women. Med Clin North Am. Sep 2004;88(5):1321-1345, xii.
- Rosamond W, Flegal K, Furie K, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics--2008 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Circulation. January 29, 2008 2008;117(4):e25-146.
- Moser M, Hebert PR. Prevention of disease progression, left ventricular hypertrophy and congestive heart failure in hypertension treatment trials. J Am Coll Cardiol. April 1, 1996;27(5):1214-1218.
- Vasan RS, Levy D. The role of hypertension in the pathogenesis of heart failure. A clinical mechanistic overview. Arch Intern Med. September 9, 1996;156(16):1789-1796.
- Kostis JB, Davis BR, Cutler J, et al. Prevention of heart failure by antihypertensive drug treatment in older persons with isolated systolic hypertension. SHEP Cooperative Research Group. JAMA. Jul 16 1997;278(3):212-216.
- Martins D, Nelson K, Pan D, Tareen N, Norris K. The effect of gender on age-related blood pressure changes and the prevalence of isolated systolic hypertension among older adults: data from NHANES III. J Gend Specif Med. 2001;4(3):10-13, 20.
- Haider AW, Larson MG, Franklin SS, Levy D. Systolic Blood Pressure, Diastolic Blood Pressure, and Pulse Pressure as Predictors of Risk for Congestive Heart Failure in the Framingham Heart Study. Ann Intern Med. January 7, 2003 2003;138(1):10-16.