Heartistry Online ToolCardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in American women. Although, the risk of CVD increases after the onset of menopause and continues to rise with age, prevention and treatment is essential for women of all ages. Knowing what your risk factors are and doing something about them is the first step. Hypertension is a risk factor for CVD.

Hypertension is a term used to describe blood pressure that is consistently higher than normal (>140/90). When your blood pressure is high your heart must work harder to pump a normal amount of blood through your body. Over time arteries weaken or become hard (atherosclerosis) and are unable to supply blood to tissue and organs (kidneys, eyes etc.). This added workload on the heart muscle may also result in a thickening of the heart muscle. A thickened heart cannot pump normally and may result in heart failure. The longer you have untreated hypertension the more likely you will develop problems.

Hypertension often has no signs or symptoms. The only way to find out if you have it is to be tested. Having your blood pressure checked is quick and easy. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and recorded as two numbers. The systolic (top number) is the amount of pressure against the arteries as the heart contracts or pumps blood through the body. The diastolic (bottom number) is the amount of pressure against the arteries as the heart rests and fills with blood. Both numbers are important but as women age (>50 years old) the systolic (top number) is more important.

Nearly 65 million Americans have hypertension. Approximately 95% of people with diagnosed hypertension have no known cause. The majority of these individuals over 50 years of age are women. Unfortunately, only a small number of these women are being treated. Hypertension can kill or injure. It leads to heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney damage, blindness and other medical problems. So, what can you do?