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Report: Hypertension Potentially More Dangerous for Women Than for Men

Researchers call for tailored treatment (January 2)

Physicians may need to treat hypertension in women earlier and more aggressively than they do in men, according to scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

In a new study published in the December issue of Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease, researchers found significant differences in the mechanisms that cause hypertension in women compared with men.

“The medical community thought that high blood pressure was the same for both sexes, and treatment was based on that premise,” said lead author Carlos Ferrario, MD. “This is the first study to consider sex as an element in the selection of antihypertensive agents or to base the choice of a specific drug on the various factors accounting for the elevation in blood pressure.”

Although there has been a significant decline in cardiovascular disease mortality in men during the last 20 to 30 years, the same has not held true for women, Ferrario said. In fact, heart disease has become the leading cause of death in women in the U.S., accounting for approximately one third of all deaths.

The researchers found 30% to 40% more vascular disease in women compared with men for the same level of elevated blood pressure. In addition, there were significant physiologic differences in the women’s cardiovascular system, including types and levels of hormones involved in blood pressure regulation, that contribute to 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,” Ferrario said. “We need to evaluate new protocols — what drugs, in what combination and in what dosage — to treat women with high blood pressure.”

Source: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center; January 2, 2014.

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