Women Under Pressure

Study shows middle-aged women curb risk of heart disease by lowering systolic blood pressure

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) New research indicates middle-aged women could reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering their systolic blood pressure (the pressure when the heart contracts).

Researchers in 11 countries found that the number of potentially preventable and reversible heart disease rates is near 36 percent in women compared to only 24 percent in men. A total of 9,357 adults (average age 53; 47 percent women) throughout Europe, Asia and South America were monitored for 24-hour systolic blood pressure readings for 11 years. Researchers monitored both ambulatory blood pressure (recorded as participants moved about during their daily routines) and at night when asleep.

According to the study, three modifiable risk factors -- smoking, systolic blood pressure and high cholesterol -- accounted for 85 percent of reversible heart disease.

Jan A. Staessen, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Studies Coordinating Center in the Division of Cardiovascular Rehabilitation at the University of Leuven in Belgium said he was surprised by the missed opportunities for heart-disease prevention in women since a 15 mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure was found to increase risk of cardiovascular disease in females by 56 percent, compared to 32 percent in males.

Staessen recommends doctors more aggressively diagnose and treat high systolic blood pressure, based on the study's findings.

Blood pressure is considered "high" if systolic (top number) pressures continually read over 140 mmHg and diastolic (the pressure when the heart is at rest) pressures consistently read over 90.

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Review Date: 
January 25, 2011
Last Updated:
January 26, 2011