Now, researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center found that this could boil down to a distinct difference in physiology between the genders: women’s blood vessels age at a faster rate than men’s.
“Many of us in medicine have long believed that women simply ‘catch up’ to men in terms of their cardiovascular risk,” said Dr. Susan Cheng. “Our research not only confirms that women have different biology and physiology than their male counterparts, but also illustrates why it is that women may be more susceptible to developing certain types of cardiovascular disease and at different points in life.”
Effects on the body
The researchers started by examining study participants’ blood pressure readings, which is oftentimes one of the first signs of cardiovascular concerns. Over 32,000 participants were involved in the study, ranging in age from young children to seniors; each person’s blood pressure was checked regularly over the course of a 43-year span.
The researchers kept the women’s and men’s readings separate, as they were trying to determine popular risk factors that emerged among the female participants and how they were different or similar to those of the male participants.
They learned that high blood pressure, though a good benchmark for later heart concerns, is different for men and women. Not only did women present with high blood pressure symptoms earlier in life than their male counterparts, but their heart health progressed at a much more rapid pace over time.
“This means that if we define the hypertension threshold the exact same way, a 30-year old woman with high blood pressure is probably at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease than a man with high blood pressure at the same age,” said Dr. Cheng.
Better care in the future
Armed with this information, the researchers hope that clinicians take these findings into account when treating their patients for heart-related conditions, especially high blood pressure.
It’s crucial that doctors are taking the difference in their male and female patients into account when determining treatment plans because of how quickly high blood pressure can evolve into something more serious.
“This study is yet another reminder to physicians that many aspects of our cardiovascular evaluation and therapy need to be tailored specifically for women,” said researcher Dr. Christine Albert. “Results from studies performed in men may not be directly extrapolated to women.”