Women Vulnerable High Blood Pressure
January 2, 2014

Study Finds Women More Vulnerable To High Blood Pressure

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

A new study from researchers at Wake Forest University has found that women may be more vulnerable to the effects of high blood pressure than men. Published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease, the study found that women may experience more negative cardiovascular effects than men at the same elevated blood pressure level.

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

Over the last two or three decades, there has been a major decline in the cardiovascular disease mortality rate for men. However, women have not seen the same decline, as heart disease has become the primary cause of death for American women, Ferrario said.

The study team said this discrepancy inspired them to investigate the basic biological mechanisms behind high blood pressure. In the study, researchers recruited 100 participants age 53 and older with untreated high blood pressure but who were otherwise healthy. Participants were evaluated to determine whether the heart or the blood vessels were the main factor in raising their blood pressure.

The tests measured both hemodynamics, or blood flow, and hormonal characteristics of the machinery behind high blood pressure in men and women. The team discovered 30 to 40 percent more vascular disease in the women compared to the men for the same high blood pressure level. The team also found more biomarkers related to the severity and frequency of heart disease in female participants than their male counterparts.

"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 blood pressure."

In December, the American Heart Association (AHA) published its annual Heart Disease and Stroke Statistical Update which showed that heart disease and stroke are still two of the top four killers of Americans. The report represents the most up-to-date statistics on heart disease, stroke and other vascular diseases and their risk factors.

The report stated that heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases accounted for more than 787,000 deaths in the US in 2010 – approximately one in three American deaths. Heart disease kills almost 380,000 in the US alone each year, making it the number one cause of death, the AHA says. The report also noted that the direct and indirect costs of cardiovascular disease and stroke top more than $315.4 billion dollars annually, including health expenditures and lost productivity.

According to the AHA, The seven key factors that decrease risks for heart disease and stroke are: not smoking, physical activity, healthy diet, body weight, and control of cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.