High blood pressure — often called the "silent killer" because of its lack of obvious symptoms — appears to be even deadlier for women. New research out of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina has found women with hypertension face greater cardiovascular risks than men.
The study, published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease
and reported by Medical News Today
, suggests doctors should treat high blood pressure more aggressively and in
different ways than they now treat men.
"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," said lead researcher Carlos Ferrario, M.D., a professor of surgery at Wake Forest Baptist, adding that doctors have traditionally "thought that high blood pressure was the same for both sexes," and therefore medical treatment was based on that idea.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high blood pressure strikes one in three Americans, putting them at risk for heart disease and stroke. But the new study found "significant differences" in the way it develops in men and women.
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To reach their conclusions, the researchers performed a variety of tests on 100 men and women with untreated high blood pressure, including examinations of forces involved in the circulation of blood, called hemodynamic characteristics, as well as hormonal profiles of the mechanisms behind the development of high blood pressure in both the men and women.
Compared with men who had the same level of high blood pressure, women had 30-40 percent more vascular disease, different physiologic characteristics in their cardiovascular systems, and varying levels and types of hormones involved in regulating blood pressure. The team says these factors can affect 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," said Dr. Ferrario, suggesting the condition may need to be treated earlier and more aggressively in women.
Experts recommend the following strategies to lower blood pressure and heart disease risks:
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Stay physically active.
- Don't smoke.
- Limit alcohol use.
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