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Women in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s should routinely monitor their blood pressure, even if their levels are typically low, health experts say.
The recommendation comes on the heels of a new study, published in the journal JAMA Cardiology, that finds that blood pressure in women begins to climb at a younger age and at a faster rate than in men. High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and heart failure.
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Using data collected from nearly 33,000 people over 43 years, researchers found that though women typically start out with a lower blood pressure than men, their levels start to surge in early adulthood and eventually catch up to, or surpass, those of their male counterparts. Men tend to experience a more gradual increase in blood pressure throughout their lives.
One common misconception, the American Heart Association (AHA) says, is that high blood pressure rarely affects women. In fact, nearly half of adults with high blood pressure are women, the AHA reports. More women than men die from stroke, and almost as many women as men die from heart disease each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"Women should definitely be much more aware that they are at risk for high blood pressure just as much as men are,” says cardiologist Susan Cheng, a study coauthor and director of public health research at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.