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Do This One Thing to Avoid A Heart Attack, If You're A Woman After 40

Skipping this one simple test could be fatal, a new study suggests.

The sun is out, the pandemic is slowly crawling back and the In the Heights is coming to the screens— these are only a few reasons among many to feel optimistic and rejuvenated. But when you feel you are a decade younger, it's easy to forget that your body needs to be checked every now and then. One more reason to do so just came from researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway, who found that women over 40 should check their blood pressure regularly to reduce their risk of a heart attack. Read on to learn why high blood pressure is more significant in women—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Had COVID And Should Tell Your Doctor.

Women Should Have Their Blood Pressure Measured Even If They Feel Healthy

The study, which was published on World Hypertension Day in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, suggests that women who had slightly elevated blood pressure in their early 40s were twice as likely to have serious heart problems—including heart attacks—in their 50s. 

"Even if they feel healthy, women should have their blood pressure measured by their primary care physician and repeated at regular intervals with the frequency dependent on the level," said study author Ester Kringeland, MD. "Those with other risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, pregnancy complications, or parents with high blood pressure need more intense monitoring."

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High Blood Pressure Could Be More Significant in Women

Earlier studies have suggested that high blood pressure is a bigger risk factor for heart disease in women than in men. Complicating matters: young and middle-aged women have a lower average blood pressure than men, but the high blood pressure threshold is the same in both sexes. 

The new study investigated whether mildly elevated blood pressure (130-139/80-89 mmHg) was a stronger risk factor for serious heart problems in women than in men.

Researchers looked at the blood pressure data of 6,381 women and 5,948 men in Sweden at age 41, then observed whether any had heart attacks in the ensuing 16 years. The researchers found that in women, having mildly elevated blood pressure doubled the risk of serious heart problems (like a heart attack) during midlife. That association was not found in men after adjusting for other cardiovascular disease risk factors.

"Our analyses confirmed that mildly elevated blood pressure affects the risk of acute coronary syndromes in a sex-specific manner," said Kringeland. "The results add to emerging evidence indicating that high blood pressure has particularly unfavorable effects on women's hearts."

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Why Does This Happen?

There may be differences between women and men in how the small arteries respond to elevated blood pressure, said Kringeland, who called for further study. "Young women have on average lower blood pressure than men, but a steeper increase is observed in women starting in the third decade," she said. "Since the threshold for high blood pressure is the same in both sexes, young women have in fact had a relatively larger increase than men before being diagnosed with high blood pressure." And to get through life at your healthiest, don't miss: This Supplement Can Raise Your Cancer Risk, Experts Say.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael