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Dr. Andrea Moyer, St. Luke's Hospital

Women need to take steps to control high blood pressure

A recent study published in Circulation found the decline in deaths among men with hypertension, or high blood pressure, was more than four times larger than the decline in deaths among women with high blood pressure. This finding comes from two large trials looking at death rates in hypertensive patients 25 to 74 years of age, and it is somewhat surprising given that women were being treated for hypertension at higher rates than men and had better blood pressure readings than their male counterparts.

Hypertension/high blood pressure is a serious condition that affects about one in three American adults and two-thirds of people over age 65. Blood pressure is the force of blood inside your arteries - the vessels that circulate blood through your body.

The study also found that women were less likely to control their weight, were more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes and were more likely to continue smoking compared to the men in the trials. These findings suggest that if women can improve upon these factors, then they may have a chance at improving their health.

In addition, past studies have shown that post-menopausal women tend to have high blood pressure, and women who have never had high blood pressure may develop it during pregnancy.

The following factors increase your risk for high blood pressure:
Common ways to control or lower blood pressure include maintaining a proper weight, reducing salt intake, getting more exercise, limiting alcohol and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The first step is to see your doctor for a thorough checkup because high blood pressure is known as a "silent killer" that can lead to heart disease and stroke. Make it a rule of thumb to keep your blood pressure monitored and under control.

Dr. Andrea Moyer is a board-certified cardiologist at Cardiac Specialists of St. Luke's. Call 314-205-6699 or visit her Meet the Doctor page.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on May 19, 2011.