Story at a glance

  • Researchers found blood pressure started increasing in women as early as the third decade of life.
  • The findings could help doctors in treating female patients with heart disease.

A new study shows women’s blood vessels age at a faster rate than men’s, shedding light on why women tend to develop different types of cardiovascular disease and at different times in life. 

New research from the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Cardiology tracked more than 30,000 adults for four decades. The study found blood vessels in women, including both large and small arteries, deteriorate and become less efficient faster than they do in men.

“Many of us in medicine have long believed that women simply ‘catch up’ to men in terms of their cardiovascular risk,” the study’s lead author and director of Public Health Research at the Smidt Heart Institute Susan Cheng said. “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.” 

On average, women who develop heart disease are 10 years older than men who develop it. But the study found blood pressure began increasing in women as early as 30, much earlier in life than men, and continued to climb higher throughout their lifespan. Researchers said the early change sets the stage for heart disease later in life. 

“Women actually start out with a lower blood pressure,” Cheng said. “If you think of it like a race, women start behind the starting line. So, when they get to the finish line, women have gotten there by running faster and harder, which causes more stress to their systems.”

Researchers also noted that heart failure may occur differently in women and men. 

Researchers analyzed nearly 145,000 blood pressure measurements from 32,833 study participants aged 5 to 98 years old over a 43-year period.

Experts said the study can help guide doctors to think differently when it comes to treating female patients.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 75 million Americans have high blood pressure, about 1 in every 3 adults. 

 

Published on Jan 15, 2020