Researchers studying 100 men and women aged 53 or older with untreated high blood pressure and no other major diseases used an array of tests to determine whether patients' heart or blood vessels were primarily involved in elevating the blood pressure.
The tests also measured the hemodynamics -- the forces involved in the circulation of blood -- and hormonal factors of the mechanisms involved in the development of high blood pressure in men and women.
The findings, published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease, showed a 30 to 40 percent higher incidence of vascular disease in women as compared to men with the same elevated blood pressure levels.
They also found significant physiological differences in women's cardiovascular systems, including different types and levels of hormones involved with high blood pressure.
“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,” said Carlos Ferrario, professor of surgery at Wake Forest Baptist.
“We need to evaluate new protocols -- what drugs, in what combination and in what dosage -- to treat women with high blood pressure.”
While there has been a significant drop in cardiovascular disease mortality in men during the last 20 to 30 years, heart disease has become the leading cause of death among women in the U.S. Treatment for high blood pressure is currently the same for both men and women.