Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a condition where the flow of blood in the body exerts a large amount of pressure against the walls of blood vessels in the arteries. Women who have reached menopause are particularly susceptible to hypertension, and doctors diagnose approximately one out of four women with the condition each year. Still, the signs and symptoms can be hard to spot.
Many women have hypertension without even knowing it as there are often no noticeable symptoms. Thus, they may not get diagnosed with the condition until it causes a heart attack, stroke or other health complication.
High Blood Pressure Reading
One of the best ways of detecting hypertension is getting your blood pressure taken. Doctors can do this easily with a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff) and a stethoscope. The sphygmomanometer collapses the major arteries in the arm; then the doctor slowly releases the pressure until he hears the pulse in the arm resume. This is the systolic blood pressure, or the force of the blood rushing from the heart. When the doctor can no longer hear the pulse, the meter on the sphygmomanometer indicates the diastolic blood pressure, or the force of the blood flowing back.
Women with severe hypertension may experience frequent nosebleeds, according to the Mayo Clinic. Nosebleeds are the result of the increased pressure, which causes breaking or popping blood vessels, which then escape from the nasal cavity.
According to the Mayo Clinic, women with advanced stages of hypertension are prone to dizzy spells, fatigue, confusion and/or nausea.
Women suffering from severe hypertension may experience chest pain, which can also be accompanied by difficulty in breathing. Elevated blood pressure causes small coronary arteries in the heart to collapse, resulting in chest pain.
Hypertension can also affect eyesight, according to Web MD. More specifically, it can cause hypertensive retinopathy where the blood vessels in the retina, responsible for focusing, become damaged.
According to Web MD, if left untreated, high blood pressure can also produce arrhythmia, a condition where the heart beats in an abnormal or irregular pattern.
Severe hypertension has been known to produce hematuria, i.e., bloody or cloudy urine. This is likely due to the increased pressure on the body's glomeruli, which are capillary clusters in the kidneys responsible for filtering waste fluids (urine) from the blood.
According to Web MD, high blood pressure may also produce pounding sensations, which will occur primarily in the ears, neck or chest.
Women with high blood pressure may suffer from headaches, both dull and severe.