High blood pressure potentially more dangerous for women than men

Doctors may need to treat high blood pressure in women earlier and more aggressively than they do in men, according to scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

In a new study, published in the December edition of Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease, the researchers for the first time found significant differences in the mechanisms that cause in as compared to men.

"The medical community thought that high blood pressure was the same for both sexes and treatment was based on that premise," said Carlos Ferrario, M.D., professor of surgery at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study.

"This is the first study to consider sex as an element in the selection of antihypertensive agents or base the choice of a specific drug on the various factors accounting for the elevation in blood pressure."

Although there has been a significant decline in mortality in men during the last 20 to 30 years, the same has not held true for women, Ferrario said. In fact, heart disease has become the leading cause of death in women in the United States, accounting for approximately a third of all deaths. So why the discrepancy if men and women have been treated in the same way for the same condition?

The apparent gender-related differences in the disease and the lack of understanding of the basic biological mechanisms involved prompted the research by the Wake Forest Baptist team. In the comparative study, 100 men and women age 53 and older with untreated high blood pressure and no other major diseases were evaluated using an array of specialized tests that indicated whether the heart or the blood vessels were primarily involved in elevating the blood pressure. These tests, which can be done in a doctor's office, can provide important information about the state of an individual's circulation.

The tests measured hemodynamic – the forces involved in the circulation of blood – and hormonal characteristics of the mechanisms involved in the development of high blood pressure in men and women.

The researchers found 30 to 40 percent more vascular disease in the women compared to the men for the same level of elevated blood pressure. In addition, there were significant physiologic differences in the women's cardiovascular system, including types and levels of hormones involved in , that contribute to the severity and frequency of heart disease.

"Our study findings suggest a need to better understand the female sex-specific underpinnings of the hypertensive processes to tailor optimal treatments for this vulnerable population," Ferrario said. "We need to evaluate new protocols – what drugs, in what combination and in what dosage – to treat women with high ."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Too few Americans aware of their high blood pressure

Dec 24, 2013

(HealthDay)—High blood pressure is a preventable and treatable risk factor for heart attack and stroke, but about one-quarter of adults don't know they have it, according to a large new study.

Recommended for you

Location of body fat can increase hypertension risk

1 hour ago

People with fat around their abdominal area are at greater risk of developing hypertension when compared to those with similar body mass index but fat concentrations elsewhere on the body, according to a ...

Fruit consumption cuts CVD risk by up to 40 percent

6 hours ago

Daily fruit consumption cuts the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by up to 40%, according to research presented at ESC Congress today by Dr Huaidong Du from Oxford, UK. The findings from the seven year ...

User comments