Volume 2, Issue 8
February 19, 2009

The most dangerous form
of high blood pressure — and the easy way to stop it

You probably already know that high blood pressure is dangerous. It can lead to heart attacks and stroke. But there's a specific type of blood pressure that can significantly raise your risk of stroke — especially if you're a woman. And preventing this type of high blood pressure is a lot easier than you might think. You don't have to change your diet or take any drugs.

Your risk of stroke goes up significantly with systolic hypertension. The systolic blood pressure is the first or highest of the blood pressure readings. The diastolic reading is the second or lower reading. When someone says they have a blood pressure of 120/74, the systolic pressure is 120 and the diastolic is 74.

Systolic hypertension is when the systolic blood pressure is high, but the diastolic is normal.

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Not only is systolic hypertension dangerous, it's very hard to treat with medications. So it's particularly important to do as much as possible to prevent it.

It's a recognized fact that women have a much greater chance of getting systolic hypertension than men. A recent study has shed some light on why that is. The researchers examined the arterial function of 374 women with an average age of 72. Then they compared them to 296 men aged 71. All of the men and women had hypertension.

The researchers then measured the stiffness of the carotid and the brachial arteries of the subjects. The carotid arteries are the main arteries that send blood to the brain. The brachial arteries are the ones in the arm that are used to measure blood pressure.

What they found was that the women had stiffer, harder carotid and brachial arteries than the men — about 25% stiffer. And that's why they are so much more prone to systolic hypertension than men. Why are they stiffer? Many would say diet or genetics. But it's not that complicated.

Quite simply, sex hormones protect us against hard arteries.

And the reason women tend to have harder, stiffer large arteries than men is because of menopause. It's during menopause that they become suddenly deficient in sex hormones. Before menopause, women have no greater chance of developing systolic hypertension than men. But after their hormone levels go down, all that changes.

Men also develop hormonal deficiencies, but they develop the deficiencies at a much slower rate than women. That's why arterial stiffness shows up so much earlier in women.

Just another reason why all women (and men) should have their hormones regularly assessed after the age of 50.ÿ When the levels start to fall (and they will fall), common sense says to give them a boost with bio-identical hormones. Restoring the levels to a healthy range can keep your arteries soft and supple. And it can stop systolic hypertension before it causes serious problems. To find a doctor who uses bio-identical hormones, see acam.org.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD


Berry KL, Cameron JD, Dart AM, et al. Large-artery stiffness contributes to the greater prevalence of systolic hypertension in elderly women. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2004 Mar;52(3):368-73.

Copyright 2009 Soundview Publishing, LLC

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