We know that heart disease is a bigger problem for women than for men. So it should come as no surprise to learn that high blood pressure - which often leads to heart disease and stroke - is more dangerous in women as well. Fortunately, new research indicates there may be a new solution that can help both women and men stay safe from the dangers of escalating blood pressure.
This new research started by showing that high blood pressure can be significantly more dangerous for women. The reason may be due to differing circulation and hormones. Since women have a higher risk, they may need to address the high blood pressure earlier than men.
But there's more to this research. These scientists, from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, published their study in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease. They found that there are indeed significant differences between high blood pressure in women and men.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that nearly 1 in 3 adults in America suffer from high blood pressure, which increases risk for both heart disease and stroke. However, most research on blood pressure has lumped men and women together. According to lead author and professor of surgery at Wake Forest Baptist Dr. Carlos Ferrario, "This is the first study to consider sex as an element in the selection of antihypertensive agents or base the choice of a specific drug on the various factors accounting for the elevation in blood pressure."
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To determine the differences, Dr. Ferrario and his team looked at 100 men and women with untreated high blood pressure. All of the participants were 53 years of age or older, and none had other major diseases. The researchers conducted a number of tests to measure forces involved in the circulation of blood along with the hormonal profiles of the subjects. They found that women had 30-40% more vascular disease than men with similar levels of high blood pressure. They also determined that physiologic differences and hormone levels can affect both the frequency and severity of heart disease.
Dr. Ferrario says, "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." This tailored approach may involve earlier and more aggressive treatment to keep high blood pressure from contributing to more dangerous diseases.
Fortunately, there are lifestyle changes that both men and women can make to decrease their risk of developing high blood pressure. These include eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active, not smoking, and limiting alcohol use. And if you do develop high blood pressure, a new treatment option may help.
Other new research indicates that high blood pressure can develop as a result of endothelial vasodilator dysfunction. The cause of this dysfunction is a lack of nitric oxide, or NO, for short. In this study, researchers tested 20 participants with regular blood pressure and 20 who were prehypertensive for the presence and absence of an endothelial NO synthase inhibitor. The researchers found that whether or not the patients had appropriate NO levels significantly affected their blood flow. A lack of NO impairs endothelial vasodilator function and greatly increases the risk of high blood pressure. And, while this will affect men and women, it seems to have a greater impact on women.
That means that regardless of your gender, you should make healthy lifestyle choices to protect yourself from high blood pressure. This will ultimately protect your cardiovascular health. But women need to keep a closer eye on things. If your blood pressure starts creeping up, take steps to correct it - immediately!
Here's what you can do. In addition to eating a healthful diet and getting adequate exercise, consider taking a supplement that can raise your NO levels. The best product I've found for doing so is CircO2. Studies have proven it improves circulation and helps prevent vascular damage that leads to high blood pressure.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand