Blood Pressure Patterns Are Different for Women

Blood pressure begins to increase at younger ages in women than in men, and it goes up at a faster rate, a new study reports.

On average, women who develop heart disease are about 10 years older than men who develop it. But this report, published in JAMA cardiology, suggests that high blood pressure, one of the most important controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease, begins at a younger age in women than men, and rises faster. The physiological processes that lead to heart disease, the findings suggest, may start earlier in women than in men.

The scientists used data collected over 43 years in 32,833 people ages 5 to 98. They found that by the time women are in their 20s, they are showing faster rates of increases in blood pressure than men, and the difference persists throughout life. The variation was significant for all blood pressure measures — systolic and diastolic (the top and bottom numbers), as well as for pulse pressure (the difference between the two numbers) and for mean arterial pressure, the average pressure in the arteries from one heartbeat to the next.

“The fundamental anatomy and physiology are very different in men and women,” said the senior author, Dr. Susan Cheng, director of public health research at the Smidt Heart Institute of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “I would encourage all to catch it as it starts to creep up, but keeping an eye on blood pressure is especially important for women.”

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