High Blood Pressure: Fast Facts

  • Until age 55, more men than women have high blood pressure, but the numbers begin to even out until, beyond age 74, significantly more women than men have high blood pressure.
  • Untreated, high blood pressure will cause the heart to overwork itself to the point where, eventually, serious damage can occur.
  • High blood pressure is present in about half of people having first-time heart attacks and two-thirds of those having first-time strokes.
  • More than 50 million people in the United States over age six (and one in four adults) have high blood pressure.
  • Forty-five million Americans (22 percent of adults) have prehypertension, blood pressure that is on the borderline between normal and elevated.
  • Nearly a third (30 percent) of people with high blood pressure don't know they have it. Another 36 percent either aren't on medication or don't have their blood pressure adequately controlled.
  • The majority of people with mild to moderate high blood pressure do not have any noticeable symptoms.
  • One in three cases of heart failure in women results from high blood pressure.
  • Blood pressure tends to get higher as women age. More than half of women over age 50 suffer from high blood pressure.
  • High blood pressure is two to three times more common in women taking birth control pills than those not taking them. The risk is especially high in women who take the pill and are overweight or obese.
  • Women who have had a heart attack are less likely to experience a second one if they lower their blood pressure.
  • During pregnancy, some women may develop high blood pressure even if they have never had the condition before. This gestational hypertension has been shown to increase the risk of high blood pressure and stroke later on in life. Some women who already have high blood pressure may see it worsen during pregnancy. Also, preeclampsia, a condition related to high blood pressure and the presence of protein in a pregnant woman's urine, is the second leading cause of maternal death in the United States.
  • Sexual dysfunction in women may be linked to high blood pressure. Female patients are encouraged to discuss any sexual difficulties with their physicians.
  • The prevalence of high blood pressure among African-Americans is the highest in the world. Black women are especially prone to high blood pressure. They have an 85 percent higher rate of medical care visits for high blood pressure than white women.

Reviewed by Abdou Elhendy, MD, PhD, FACC, FAHA

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