Although being a woman has its perks, womanhood is not so fabulous when it comes to high blood pressure, new research says. High blood pressure can stalk us without any symptoms or warning signs, and now this “silent killer” in women also puts them at a higher risk than their male counterparts for developing vascular disease as well.
A new study, conducted by North Carolina’s Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease, reveals “significant differences” between the factors causing high blood pressure in women and those in men.
Historically, researchers thought that the condition was the same for both sexes and, as a result, medical treatment should be identical.
High blood pressure leads to heart disease
Dr. Carlos Ferrario and his team studied 100 men and women who were 53 or older with untreated high blood pressure. Their tests measured the forces behind the circulation of blood, called hemodynamic characteristics, as well as the mechanisms that lead to high blood pressure.
The researchers found the women had physiological differences in their cardiovascular systems, which included levels and types of hormones that regulate blood pressure. These factors can affect the frequency and severity of heart disease. Their conclusion: Women with high blood pressure have a 30 to 40 percent higher risk of the vascular disease than men, who have the same elevated blood pressure levels.
Today, an estimated one in three adults in the U.S. — or 68 million — has high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But many people do not realize that they have it. Also referred to as hypertension, high blood pressure happens when the walls of arteries experience significant force as blood flows through them. It also increases the risk of two leading causes of death, stroke and heart disease.
High blood pressure prevention and treatment
In light of their recent findings, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researchers suggest that high blood pressure be treated sooner, more regularly and more aggressively in women. Also, newer protocols and guidelines are needed for managing the condition in the future, they say.
But the good news is that you can take steps to prevent or treat high blood pressure right now. A healthy lifestyle is your best course of action to lower the risk of elevated blood pressure and heart disease.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends limiting the amount of sodium — salt — and alcohol that you consume, maintaining a healthy weight and being committed to routine physical activity. Managing stress also improves physical and emotional health.
The big one, of course, is smoking. Kick the habit! Smoking can damage your blood vessels and raise your risk for high blood pressure, along with further aggravating related health concerns.