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Women’s blood pressure rises earlier in life than men's: Study

Ann Schmidt

A new study could help explain why women have different kinds of heart disease at different times than men.

That’s because women’s blood vessels age at a faster rate than men’s, according to the study -- published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Cardiology.

Dr. Susan Cheng, the senior author of the study and the director of Public Health Research at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, said medical professionals had thought men’s cardiovascular risk started earlier than women.

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"Many of us in medicine have long believed that women simply 'catch up' to men in terms of their cardiovascular risk," Cheng said in a statement.

"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,” Cheng added.

Cheng and her team at the Smidt Heart Institute analyzed almost 145,000 blood pressure measurements that had been collected from 32,833 participants across the U.S., according to a press release.

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The measurements had been collected over the course of 43 years, and participants were between the ages of 5 and 98.

The researchers compared women’s measurements with other women’s measurements and men’s measurements against other men’s measurements and found that women’s blood pressure starts rising earlier in life than men’s blood pressure.

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Researchers took this approach because blood pressure is a “critical indicator of cardiovascular risk,” the release said.

"Our data showed that rates of accelerating blood pressure elevation were significantly higher in women than men, starting earlier in life," Cheng said.

"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 higher risk for cardiovascular disease than a man with high blood pressure at the same age,” she added.

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