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Study: Women Start Having High Blood Pressure Earlier in Life Than Men

heart health

With higher blood pressure, the likelihood of cardiovascular disease later in life increases. 

A study suggests that high blood pressure begins at a younger age and increases at a faster rate for women than men.

The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), studied the differences in blood pressure trajectories and found that this early onset and steeper rate of increase in women may contribute to cardiovascular disease later in life.

The objective of the study was to evaluate whether patterns of blood pressure elevation differ between women and men throughout their lives. It included 32,833 participants, of whom 17,733 (54 percent) were women.

Using serial assessments over four decades, researchers found that women exhibited a steeper increase in blood pressure that began earlier than men.

Cardiovascular disease is a class of conditions involving the heart and the circulatory system. Heart attack, stroke, and narrowing of the arteries are but a few examples of cardiovascular disease (CV).

According to the Centers for Disease Control Control and Prevention, CV was the leading cause of death in the United States, with over 647,000 in 2017 alone.

An estimated 17.9 million people died worldwide from CV in 2016, and 85 percent of those deaths were caused by heart attack and stroke. High blood pressure is considered a key risk factor contributing to CV. Other factors include high blood cholesterol, smoking, obesity, diet, substance abuse, diabetes, and physical inactivity.

Prior to the study, it was believed that important CV processes in women lagged behind men by 10 to 20 years. However, the sex-specific analyses indicated that blood pressure actually progresses more rapidly than men — and with an earlier onset.

The study did not evaluate specific causes for CV, but it did show the need for greater examination of the gender-specific causes and impact.

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