A new study has just given a double thumbs-up to middle-aged women who take the necessary steps to control their blood pressure. According to the recent research it can reduce their risk of having a heart attack, stroke and developing heart failure.
For middle-aged and older women, high systolic blood pressure (the blood pressure measured when the heart contracts) is a major risk factor in developing heart disease. But based on this study, doctors now estimate 36% of serious cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes are preventable by lowering blood pressure in women -- compared to only 24% in men.
Heres how the study was conducted: The researchers examined data on 9,357 adults in 11 countries in Europe, Asia, and South America for a median of 11 years. They looked at absolute and relative risks of cardiovascular disease that were associated with systolic blood pressure. For this study, the researchers looked at ambulatory blood pressure, which involves measuring blood pressure at set intervals for 24 hours during a persons daily routine and when asleep, and conventional blood pressure readings taken in doctors offices.
Their conclusion is that there are three major risk factors that account for 85% of the modifiable risk for heart disease for both and women: high systolic (the top number) blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. And high systolic pressure is the most important risk factor, according to the researchers.
The research also concluded that a relatively small increase of 15 points in systolic blood pressure increased the risk of cardiovascular disease by 56% in women and 32% in men.DOES TAKING YOUR OWN BLOOD PRESSURE WORK?The simple answer is yes. Ambulatory blood pressure readings, the scientists say, have less potential for error and provide more accurate estimates of usual blood pressure and prognosis for cardiovascular disease.If youre thinking about getting a blood pressure machine for home use (which many doctors recommend), keep in mind that tests have shown that finger/wrist devices do not measure blood pressure very accurately. They are extremely sensitive to position and body temperature, and are more expensive than other monitors (often costing more than $100).Once you purchase a machine, ask your doctor or nurse to teach you how to use your blood pressure monitor correctly. Proper use of it will help you and your doctor achieve good results in controlling your blood pressure.WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A HOME BLOOD PRESSURE MONITOR The right cuff size is very important. Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist to tell you the cuff size you need, based on the size of your arm. Blood pressure readings will be wrong if your cuff is the wrong size. The numbers on the monitor should be easy for you to read. If you are using a stethoscope, you must be able to hear heart sounds through it. Cost may be an important factor. Since home blood pressure units vary in price, you may have to shop around. The most expensive units might not be the best or the most accurate.
In the study, the monitor used for ambulatory readings was a small, portable device programmed to take blood pressures at specific intervals. Nighttime readings are a better predictor of heart disease than daytime readings because the readings taken at night are more standardized, the researchers say. And blood pressure at night is less likely to be influenced by physical activity.Robin Westen is ThirdAges medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. She is the author of Relationship Repair.See what others have to say about this story or leave a comment of your own.