Is hypertension in men different from that of women?

Experts sound alarm over hypertension amid COVID-19 pandemic.(photo:IANSLIFE)
Despite its importance, hypertension is more often underestimated. Photo: IANS

New Delhi: According to doctors, women face unique considerations due to hormonal changes, and pregnancy-related factors as regards the risk of hypertension, although there are no definite gender-specific differences.

World Hypertension Day is marked every year on May 17. The theme this year is 'measure your blood pressure accurately, control it, and live longer'.

According to the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), around one in three women have hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, globally. Raised blood pressure has been named the most important risk factor for death in women across the world.

Despite its importance, hypertension is more often underestimated and not, or insufficiently, treated in women compared to men. While hypertension is more prevalent in men below the age of 50, for women high BP is more after menopause.

"Hormonal fluctuations, particularly during menopause, can influence a woman's blood pressure," Dr. Sumit Aggarwal. Associate Director and head- Unit II - Internal Medicines, Sarvodaya Hospital, Faridabad, told IANS.

This may be because "while women benefit from the protective effects of oestrogen, those who are susceptible to high blood pressure feel it rising earlier and advancing faster," he added.

Furthermore, menopausal women may experience weight gain and metabolic changes, increasing their risk of developing hypertension.

"By and large, there are no definite gender-specific differences in risk of hypertension. Specific to women are pregnancy-induced hypertension and oral contraceptive induced hypertension which require specific appropriate preventive steps," Dr. Tilak Suvarna, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai, said.

Pregnancy poses specific challenges in managing hypertension for women. Conditions such as gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, and eclampsia can arise during pregnancy, affecting both the mother and the unborn child.

Dr. Ajay Kaul - Chairman, Cardiac Sciences, Fortis Hospital Noida, said: "The incidence of hypertension amongst men is very high and around 33 per cent in India. However, females below the age of 45 that is, pre-menopausal are protected and the incidence is somewhere 11 to 15 per cent only. But after menopause the incidence becomes almost as equal as men."

The doctors also noted that sometimes women have a higher incidence of hypertension after menopause. This is a serious problem and usually neglected in female patients.

"We have to be more careful in evaluating blood recordings of patients after the age of 40-45 men have to be very careful because they have a higher incidence throughout their life. But in females after the age of 45, the incidence rapidly increases, which is a serious problem," Kaul said. Besides hormonal changes, it is also because of other factors like obesity which is common after menopause, he said.

The key to managing hypertension in women is similar to that of men, the doctors said. Regular exercise, a well-balanced diet, stress management techniques, and adequate sleep contribute to overall cardiovascular health.

Engaging in physical activities suitable for each life stage, making heart-healthy dietary choices, and exploring relaxation techniques can help women manage hypertension effectively.

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