High blood pressure is a silent danger in older women, from the April 2013 Harvard Women's Health Watch

Millions of American women harbor a secret even they don't know they carry. It's high blood pressure, an often silent, symptomless condition that can damage blood vessels and overwork the heart, leaving women prey to heart disease, stroke, and premature death. The April 2013 Harvard Women's Health Watch looks at the reasons why so many women don't know their blood pressure and explains how the treatment of high blood pressure has changed.

A woman's risk of developing high blood pressure is extremely high if she lives long enough, says Dr. Deepak Bhatt, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Integrated Interventional Cardiovascular Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital. About 70% of women in their 60s and 70s have high blood pressure (hypertension), and that rises to nearly 80% after age 75.

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