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High Blood Pressure Symptoms in Women vs Men

Blog Hypertension

High Blood Pressure Symptoms in Women Vs Men

writtenByWritten by: Shannon Chapman
Shannon Chapman

Shannon Chapman

Shannon enjoys breaking down technical subjects and giving others the tools to make informed decisions. Her interests include behavioral economics, sustainable living, meditation, and healthy cooking.

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reviewBy Reviewed by: Dr. Katalin Karolyi
Reviewer

Dr. Katalin Karolyi

Katalin Karolyi, M.D. earned her medical degree at the University of Debrecen. After completing her residency program in pathology at the Kenezy Hospital, she obtained a postdoctoral position at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Orlando, Florida.

February 12, 2021 Read Time - 9 minutes

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a condition where the pressure your blood puts on your artery walls is higher than normal for a sustained period of time. Similar to the pressure needed to send air through a tube, your blood needs pressure to travel through your arteries. 

Too much pressure can lead to a number of health problems including potentially life-threatening conditions, such as stroke.

Illnesses or medications that narrow the arteries also increase high blood pressure. This is also why high blood pressure is so much more common with older adults as arteries narrow when we age.

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Who is at Risk of Hypertension?

Hypertension is more common in certain demographic groups: 

  • African-Americans
  • Lower-income households
  • Residents of the southeastern US
  • Individuals older than 55

Certain traits can cause or increase your likelihood of having high blood pressure:

  • Overweight: Being more than 15% of the healthy weight for your body mass increases your likelihood of getting high blood pressure significantly. Obese people develop high blood pressure two to six times more often than healthy individuals.
  • Heavy alcohol drinkers: Those who drink more than two drinks a day have higher rates of high blood pressure than those who do not.
  • Inactive: Being inactive contributes to obesity and high blood pressure.
  • Smokers: Smoking negatively affects key body functions, including your ability to exercise, therefore contributing to obesity and high blood pressure.

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Additionally, a diet heavy in salt, regular use of decongestants, medications like ibuprofen and birth control, as well as illegal drugs like cocaine all increase your chances of developing high blood pressure.

Causes of High Blood Pressure in Women

There is a misconception that women are rarely affected by hypertension, but women are just as likely as men to develop hypertension and are actually more likely than men after the age of 65. In particular, three periods of life can affect a woman’s blood pressure:

  • Oral contraceptives: Taking birth control pills increases blood pressure for some women, especially for those who are already at risk of high blood pressure. Before starting birth control, talk to your doctor about your medical history and risk of developing high blood pressure.
  • Pregnancy: High blood pressure during pregnancy, or gestational hypertension may occur after the first 20 weeks and disappears after delivery. If it is not caught and treated, hypertension can be damaging to the baby and mother.
  • Menopause: While it is not entirely clear why, the chances of women having high blood pressure after menopause increase considerably, even if they have had normal blood pressure their whole life.

High Blood Pressure Symptoms in Men vs Women

High blood pressure is extremely common in adults, and it is estimated as many as 30% have varying degrees of high blood pressure.

According to the CDC, “Tens of millions of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, and many do not have it under control.” Hypertension can be present for years without symptoms, but all the while cause damage to your heart and blood vessels.

The symptoms of high blood pressure to be on the look out for include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nosebleeds
  • Headaches
  • Confusion or fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Vision problems
  • Blood in urine
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Pounding in your ears, neck, or chest

Any of these symptoms could be a sign of a hypertensive crisis leading to a stroke or heart attack. Even with no symptoms, untreated hypertension can also cause kidney failure, aneurysms, leg pain while walking, or eye problems. 

Although high blood pressure is very serious, it is also extremely easy to detect. You should have semi-regular checkups to check for high blood pressure regardless of whether you have symptoms are not.

Plenty of additional symptoms can be associated with high blood pressure, but many are caused by another underlying illness or condition.These include:

  • Facial flushing: Facial flushing happens when facial blood vessels dilate causing blushing and feeling warm. There are numerous causes of facial flushing such as weather, spicy foods, or stress but it is not caused by high blood pressure.
  • Hot flashes: Some individuals worry that hot flashes in med and high blood pressure are correlated, but just as with women, they can be caused by prescription medication, being overweight, anxiety, thyroid illnesses, and sudden hormone changes.
  • Blood spots in eyes: Medically known as subconjunctival hemorrhage, this is more common for people with diabetes. Neither diabetes nor high blood pressure cause blood spots, but should be seen by a doctor immediately.
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    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

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  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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Diagnosing & Treating Your High Blood Pressure

A doctor or nurse, pharmacy, or even at home monitor can measure your blood pressure with a device called a sphygmomanometer. This device consists of a dial, pump, valve, arm cuff, and stethoscope. 

Usually three readings of your blood pressure are required for a diagnosis. A doctor will also ask about your medical history and potential risk factors in addition to conducting a physical exam.

Two main treatments for high blood pressure are recommended: lifestyle changes and drug therapy.

Lifestyle changes that will help bring down your high blood pressure include:

  • Losing weight
  • Eating healthy
  • Quitting smoking
  • Exercising regularly
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Reducing sodium intake

These lifestyle changes can not only lower blood pressure, but if you are taking high blood pressure drugs, then they can help improve their effectiveness.

If lifestyle changes are not enough or if the high blood pressure is severe enough, drug therapy can be life-saving. The major types of drug therapy for treating hypertension include:

  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Alpha-blockers
  • Beta-blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Diuretics
  • Renin inhibitors
  • Combination medications

Diuretics are usually the first recommended therapy, but they are not recommended for everyone based on medical history. ACE inhibitors are more common for those with diabetes and sometimes multiple drugs may be assigned. Talk to a medical professional to learn more about your options.

Once starting the drug therapy, you should have monthly appointments with your doctor to check on how you are moving towards your goal and have your doctor check you for potential side effects, such as kidney damage. After successfully lowering your blood pressure, you should still continue to have appointments with your doctor at least every three to six months.

Side Effects of Hypertension in Men Vs Women

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often called the “silent killer” because it may have no signs or symptoms. Untreated high blood pressure can cause a number of diseases and even be life threatening.

The most common severe complications of untreated hypertension are:

  • Heart disease: The number one cause of death from high blood pressure is hypertensive heart disease. This includes a group of conditions like heart failure, heart attack, and left ventricular hypertrophy. This results from high blood pressure thickening the heart muscles, and then those muscles becoming less effective.
  • Stroke: Atherosclerosis, caused by untreated, long-term hypertension, happens when there is hardening of large arteries. This can block smaller blood vessels to the brain resulting in stroke.
  • Kidney disease: High blood pressure can damage blood vessels and filters that lead to the kidney. In earlier stages, this causes kidney disease or renal disease and in later stages can cause total kidney failure, where dialysis or kidney transplants are necessary.
  • Eye disease: Along with the problems listed above, hypertension can cause eye disease by damaging the retina blood vessels, or where the eye puts images in focus. Called hypertensive retinopathy, the damage to your vision can be very serious.

Complications From High Blood Pressure in Men Vs Women

For women, high blood pressure during pregnancy can cause preeclampsia, a severe form of gestational hypertension. Symptoms of preeclampsia include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Vision changes
  • Swelling

Preeclampsia should be treated by a doctor immediately as it can cause serious damage to the baby and mother, harm key organs of the mother like the kidneys, or result in fetal complications including low birth weight or even stillbirth. The only cure for preeclampsia is delivering the baby before complications occur.

For men, hypertension can cause erectile dysfunction, so much so that a majority of men over 40 who have high blood pressure also have erectile dysfunction.

Blood flow into the penis is what allows for the penis to become erect, but high blood pressure means that the blood vessels cannot dilate properly to allow that blood flow. 

In addition, high blood pressure can be correlated with low sexual desire in men and interfere with ejaculation. Medications that treat high blood pressure may cause erectile dysfunction as well.

While these problems usually go away after blood pressure is lowered, it is important to contact a doctor to discuss any potential complications.

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When to Contact a Doctor

If you have any of the symptoms described, you should go see a doctor. In general, if you have any of the major risk factors, you should be tested for high blood pressure regularly.

Additionally, you should call 911 immediately if you have any of the following symptoms as they can be a sign of untreated high blood pressure resulting in a hypertensive emergency:

  • Blurred vision or severe headache
  • Severe anxiety
  • Shortness of breath, severe chest pain, or confusion
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Seizure
  • Unresponsiveness

Can I Get a Blood Pressure Prescription Online?

Yes! In order to get any prescription medication, you’ll have to consult a doctor. Fortunately, online providers like PlushCare make getting a virtual appointment, simple, affordable, and convenient. 

High blood pressure is one of the many conditions our virtual services are designed to help treat. Although we cannot directly take your blood pressure measurements, we can help interpret your results and get you set up on the right treatment plan. 

Managing hypertension can take months or even years. Save the time and energy of having to go in for appointments with your physician and see a doctor in just minutes online. PlushCare accepts all major insurance providers and is proud to offer service from some of the best primary care physicians in the country.

Just click here to get started and learn how we can help you manage your high blood pressure.


Read More About High Blood Pressure


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

cdc.gov. High Blood Pressure. Accessed on December 30, 2020 at https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/index.htm

mayoclinic.org. High blood pressure (hypertension). Accessed on December 30, 2020 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373410

medlineplus.gov. High Blood Pressure. Accessed on December 30, 2020 at https://medlineplus.gov/highbloodpressure.html

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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