What We Know
One in three American women have high blood pressure (more than 140 over 90 mm Hg). High blood pressure increases your risk of heart and blood vessel problems such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and PAD. Although treatment is available to lower blood pressure, many women with high blood pressure do not know they have it or are not doing enough to get it under control.
In recent years, doctors and health organizations have been working to improve public awareness of the health risks of high blood pressure, and to help ensure that more people with the condition are diagnosed and treated. Have these efforts made any difference?
What This Study Adds
A study published May 26 in the Journal of the American Medical Association investigated whether high blood pressure control has improved over the past twenty years. The researchers examined the results of nationwide surveys conducted between 1988 and 2008, which included responses from 42,386 American adults (more than half of them women).
In both women and men, high blood pressure control has improved over time. Only 27% of people with high blood pressure had it under control in the early years of the study, but more than 50% did by 2008. This change was linked to similar improvements in the awareness, diagnosis, and treatment of high blood pressure.
Despite the good news, some of the study's other findings are cause for concern, particularly for women. Compared with men, women with high blood pressure were more likely to know they had it and to receive treatment. However, women who were being treated for high blood pressure were less likely to succeed in reaching their blood pressure goal. This means that even with treatment many women are still at risk for heart problems related to high blood pressure.
What it Means for You
Although high blood pressure control has improved, half of men and women with high blood pressure still do not have it under control. Controlling high blood pressure reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke, and all women need to work with their doctor to monitor their blood pressure and reach their treatment goals. Most women should have their blood pressure measured at least once every year, more often if your blood pressure is higher than normal (120/80 mm Hg).
If you do have high blood pressure, lifestyle changes like diet and exercise are sometimes enough. However, most women will require medication to lower blood pressure. Many different types of drugs are available, and you may need more than one type of medication to lower your blood pressure to healthy levels. As this study shows, simply getting treatment is not enough: you need to work with your doctor to make sure you reach your blood pressure goals. If one medication does not lower your blood pressure enough, your doctor may decide to try a different drug or a combination of drugs. Only by reaching your goal can you protect the health of your arteries and minimize your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
High Blood Pressure & Heart Disease
Egan BM, Zhao Y, Axon RN. US trends in prevalence, awareness, treatment, and control of hypertension, 1988 to 2008. JAMA. 2020;303:2043-50.
Chobanian, AV. Improved hypertension control: Cause for some celebration. JAMA. 2010;303:2082-3.