Men and women experience heart disease differently – and blood pressure may be why. According to a study, blood pressure rises faster and earlier in women.
Early Signs of Heart Conditions
Women experience a sharper rise in blood pressure than men as early as young adulthood, according to a study.
Even though women may experience heart disease later than men, the biological changes that impact their heart health can show up in their 20’s.
“Our research… illustrates why it is that women may be more susceptible to developing certain types of cardiovascular disease and at different points in life,” said Dr. Susan Cheng.
She is an author of the study and the director of Public Health Research at the Smidt Heart Institute at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Blood Pressure in Males vs Females
Published in the journal JAMA Cardiology, the study tracked close to 33,000 people between ages 5 and 98 for more than four decades.
In the study, they found that women started experiencing a steeper increase in their blood pressure as early as their 20’s when compared to men. These increases continued throughout their life.
“The ways by which we think about and aim to prevent or treat high blood pressure likely needs to be more tailored, at least by sex,” Cheng said.
“But there’s still have more work to do to understand exactly what the implications of this research are for outcomes and treatment.”
A Renewed Focus on Women’s Health
The study shows the importance of measuring blood pressure in women, says Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist and the medical director for the NYU Women’s Heart Program and the senior adviser for women’s health strategy at NYU Langone Health.
“We need to pay serious attention to blood pressure in everyone, but particularly in women,” said Goldberg; she was not involved with the new research.
Goldberg said that high blood pressure could stiffen blood vessels, leading to cardiovascular diseases and conditions that are more common in women, such as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.
This condition, when taking belly fat into account, can lead to the thickening of the heart muscle. Pregnancy complications like preeclampsia can also increase the risk of high blood pressure.
“Younger to middle-aged adults especially need to be more aware that high blood pressure is not just a condition of older age,” said Cheng. “It can begin at a younger age and, when it does, it is especially important to start treating.”
High blood pressure in women can be mitigated. Women of all ages can reduce their risk of heart disease by doing the following:
- Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
- Stay active and exercise regularly
- Eat healthily and avoid fried and processed foods
- Drink alcohol in moderation