Lead author Dr. Carlos Ferrario, professor of surgery at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., and colleagues found significant differences in the mechanisms causing high blood pressure in women as compared to men.
"The medical community thought that high blood pressure was the same for both sexes and treatment was based on that premise," Ferrario said in a statement.
The study involved 100 men and women age 53 and older with untreated high blood pressure and no other major diseases. They were evaluated using an array of specialized tests to test an individual's circulation.
The tests measured hemodynamic -- the forces involved in the circulation of blood -- and hormonal characteristics of the mechanisms involved in the development of high blood pressure in men and women.
The study, published in Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease, found 30 percent to 40 percent more vascular disease in the women compared to the 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, the study said.