January 26, 2011

Women: Lowering BP Reduces Heart Risks

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Women worldwide could reduce their risk of heart disease (stroke, heart attack, and heart failure) and its complications by simply lowering their blood pressure, according to a new study.

Researchers found that high systolic blood pressure (the pressure when the heart contracts) is a powerful risk factor for cardiovascular complications in middle-aged and older women all over the world. In women, 36 percent of heart diseases are reversible, as measured by 24-hour systolic blood pressure monitoring.

Researchers in 11 countries followed 9,357 adults (average age 53, 47 percent women) throughout Europe, Asia and South America for more than 11 years. They analyzed participants for absolute and relative risks of cardiovascular disease associated with systolic blood pressure.

Three major risk factors accounted for 85 percent of the reversible risk for heart disease in women and men: high systolic blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. High systolic pressure was the most important risk factor.

"I was surprised by the study findings that highlight the missed opportunities for prevention of heart disease in older women," Jan A. Staessen, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Studies Coordinating Center in the Division of Cardiovascular Rehabilitation at the University of Leuven in Belgium, was quoted as saying. "We found that a 15 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure increased the risk of cardiovascular disease by 56 percent in women compared to 32 percent in men."

The absolute and relative risks associated with high blood pressure were assessed using both ambulatory 24-hour blood pressure monitoring and conventional blood pressure measurements in the doctor's office.

Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring involves measuring blood pressure for 24 hours during participants' daily routine and when asleep. The monitor is a small, portable device programmed to record blood pressure at specific intervals. Ambulatory blood pressure readings have less potential for error and better reproducibility. They provide more accurate estimates of usual blood pressure and prognosis for cardiovascular disease than conventional blood pressure readings.

"It is recognized that women live longer than men but that older women usually report lower quality of life than men. By lowering systolic pressure by 15 mm Hg in hypertensive women, there would be an increased benefit in quality of life by the prevention of cardiovascular disease in about 40 percent in women compared to 20 percent in men," Dr. Staessen said.

SOURCE: Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, published online January 24, 2011