High blood pressure: One new risk factor identified for older women

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Research published in the Journal of Hypertension noted that middle-aged women who lacked social ties were much more likely than men to suffer from high blood pressure. Principal investigator, Annalijn Conklin – who is the assistant professor in the faculty of pharmaceutical sciences at UBC – commented on the findings. “Among older adults, social isolation is the largest known risk factor for mortality, equal only to smoking.

“Less well known is how social isolation affects men and women differently, or how it affects biomarkers of longevity.

“Our research indicates that women, in particular, are more likely to be hypertensive when they experience isolation in middle and older age.”

How did the researchers come to this conclusion?

The study involved data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Ageing.

This involved an analysis of the social ties of 28,238 adults aged 45 to 85.

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Single women, who engaged in fewer than three social activities a month – or had a small social network of less than 85 contacts – had higher odds of high blood pressure (i.e. hypertension).

The average systolic blood pressure (the measurement of pressure when the heart beats) was highest among widowed, lone-living, socially inactive women.

“The largest difference in blood pressure was between widowed and married women,” the researchers stated.

Conklin reported: “Among women, the increase in blood pressure that was associated with the lack of social ties was similar to that seen with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory use, increased sodium [i.e. salt] diets, pollution or weight gain.

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“This represents a significant women-specific risk factor for heart disease or stroke.”

Meanwhile, among men, the picture was “quite different”, as the men who had smaller networks and lived alone had lower blood pressure than men who were single, or shared their home, or had the largest social networks.

“Our new findings underline how social isolation affects health in men and women differently,” said Conklin.

Hypertension

While the condition hardly has any noticeable symptoms, using a blood pressure monitor can inform you as to your reading.

An ideal blood pressure reading should be between 90/60mmHg to 120/80mmHg, certified the NHS.

High blood pressure is regarded as 140/90mmHg or higher, while anything in between suggests you’re at risk of high blood pressure.

“If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes,” the NHS pointed out.

Persistent high blood pressure can lead to:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Heart failure
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Aortic aneurysms
  • Kidney disease
  • Vascular dementia.

“All adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every five years,” the NHS added.

This will be part of a regular health check-up at the doctor’s office, but you are able to buy a blood pressure monitor to use at home.

To help reduce your blood pressure, it’s recommended to cut down on caffeine, not to smoke, to exercise regularly, and to lose weight if you’re overweight.

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