Up to 50 percent of women develop high blood pressure before age 60
While complications of pregnancy and early menopause increase the future risk of heart disease in women, a recent study from a European Society of Cardiology (ESC) consensus document places responsibility for patient education on endocrinologists, gynecologists, and cardiologists.
That’s because the study, published earlier this week in European Heart Journal, finds that the symptoms of heart disease are all too commonly dismissed as a symptom of menopause or another nondescript ailment. While almost half of all women develop high blood pressure before the age of 60, symptoms including hot flushes and palpitations are often attributed to menopause.
“High blood pressure is called hypertension in men but in women it is often mistakenly labelled as stress or menopausal symptoms,” said first author Professor Angela Maas, director of the Women’s Cardiac Health Programme, Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. “We know that blood pressure is treated less well in women compared to men, putting them at risk for atrial fibrillation, heart failure and stroke – which could have been avoided.”
“A woman’s life provides clues that you need to start early with prevention,” said Professor Maas. “We have to assess female patients differently to men, and not just ask about high cholesterol. This will enable us to classify middle-aged women as high-risk or lower risk for cardiovascular disease.”
The document offers advice on dealing with heart health at pivotal points in a woman’s life, such as during and post-pregnancy and during menopause, as well as during or following more serious health events, such as a diagnosis of breast cancer. Not surprisingly, doctors stress the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle and recommend an assessment of risk factor before initiating menopausal hormone therapy.
“Women can help their doctors prevent heart problems and make earlier diagnoses by mentioning issues like complicated pregnancies and early menopause and monitoring their own blood pressure,” concluded Professor Maas.
SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology