High blood pressure should be treated earlier and more aggressively in women.

A new study shows that high blood pressure can be potentially more dangerous for women than for men. This means that doctors might have to treat the condition in females earlier and more aggressively.

While death from heart disease among both black and white men has declined substantially, the same cannot be said for women. From 2004 to 2010 death rates fell for males both white and black from 335 per 100,000 deaths for whites and 454 per 100,000 for blacks, to 278 and 368 respectively. At the same time, heart disease is now the leading cause of death for U.S. women, accounting for 25 percent of the deaths in 2009. Still, men and women are treated in same way for this condition.

This prompted a group of researchers from the Baptist Medical Center at Wake Forest to conduct the first study to identify differences between males and females with regards to the mechanisms that contribute to high blood pressure – particularly hemodynamics (the physical aspects of blood circulation).

The team examined 100 males and females, all 53 years of age or older and had suffered from high blood pressure that had been untreated. The tests measured the hormonal nature and forces on the blood circulation behind the development of hypertension in both the men and women.

The results showed 30-40 percent more cases of vascular disease in women who participated compared to male counterparts with the same level of blood pressure.

The researchers said that the impact of sex differences in the hemodynamic factors accounting for the elevation in arterial pressure in subjects with essential hypertension has been poorly characterized or this information is not available. They suggest that “this gap in knowledge may adversely influence choices of drug treatment since our study shows for the first time significant differences in the hemodynamic and hormonal mechanisms accounting for the increased blood pressure in women compared to men.”

In short, this knowledge should help tailor therapeutic approaches and improve blood pressure control.

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