World Hypertension Day is May 17: Women, do you know your numbers?
May 17, 2017
Posted by: sleepapnea.org
This year’s theme for World Hypertension Day is Know Your Numbers. That’s something all women should make a point to do this National Women’s Health Week—check their blood pressure reading.
Normal blood pressure is 120/80, whereas prehypertension is defined as 120-139/80-89, with a reading of 140/90 defined as hypertension (more commonly referred to as high blood pressure).
The sponsors of World Hypertension Day—the World Hypertension League (WHL) and the International Society of Hypertension (ISH) have a lofty goal this year: they hope to increase high blood pressure (BP) awareness globally by aiming to inspire 25 million people to get blood pressure screenings this month. (You can participate by reporting your numbers to their website at May Measurement Month.)
Still, you might be wondering… what connects women’s health and blood pressure to sleep?
Preliminary data from one study suggests that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects 8.1 percent of pregnant women by the second trimester, with an additional link made between OSA, hypertension and diabetes. (BioMed Research International, 2016)
A Chinese study found that middle-aged women with extremely long sleep duration (more than 9 hours a night) were more likely to have high blood pressure than those women who slept between 7 and 8 hours a night. This finding was not true for men. (BMJ Open, 2016)
Among postmenopausal women, self-reported insomnia was associated with higher risk of developing coronary heart disease(CHD) or cardiovascular disease. (Journal of Womens Health, 2013) [Note: uncontrolled hypertension can lead to CHD or heart disease]
A 2006 study focused on insomnia and hypertension found that more women than men (more than 60 percent versus less than 40 percent) who were patients of coronary artery disease reported problems with insomnia; those with insomnia tended to be older and had experienced high blood pressure for longer. (Blood Pressure, 2006)
Penn Medicine is currently researching women who have pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) who also have daytime fatigue and insomnia to determine if their PAH might be the cause of their sleep-wake problems. (Penn Medicine, 2017)
A recent meta-analysis concluded that sleep-disordered breathing is an independent stroke predictor; a separate Taiwan study reviewed gender-related differences and found a higher increase in stroke incidence among women than men, with women under the age of 35 showing the greatest risk increase. (Neurology, 2016)
Women who had sleep apnea were almost twice as likely to develop what’s known as preeclampsia, a type of pregnancy-related high blood pressure. (Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2016)
Untreated OSA leads to multiple problems in women (oxidative stress, inflammation, tissue damage, sympathetic activation and metabolic dysregulation) which predispose the body to atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”). This confirms OSA as a common cause of systemic hypertension. (Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders, 2016)
High blood pressure is a silent condition; you don’t feel it, so your best bet is to have it checked.
You don’t even need to go to your doctor’s office to do this. You can:
purchase (or borrow) a blood pressure cuff to use at home
use blood pressure cuff machines found at many pharmacies
go to the local fire department and have them check it for you for free
Whatever you do, if you have trouble with sleep and/or struggle with daytime fatigue and sleepiness, you may want to discuss a potential sleep disorder as the hidden culprit behind your blood pressure if it becomes high and difficult to manage.