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November 10, 2003
WOMEN WITH MILD HYPERTENSION HAVE WORSE HEART FUNCTION OVER TIME
Women with even mild hypertension may be at risk for more severe heart problems down the road, according to a Johns Hopkins study.
Women are more susceptible than men to diastolic heart failure, a disorder in which the heart doesn't fill properly with fresh, oxygenated blood to send out to the body. The condition is often caused by high blood pressure
and carries with it a high risk of death.
The Hopkins team studied 53 men and 60 women ages 55 to 75, with blood pressures of 130-159 mmHg systolic (the upper number) and 85-99 mmHg diastolic (the lower number) but were otherwise healthy. These blood
pressure levels also are known as "prehypertension" or "stage I hypertension." Researchers assessed the participants' heart performance through different methods of echocardiography, or ultrasound, finding that older age was associated with a greater impairment in heart performance and increased vascular stiffness among the women, but not men.
"These early changes are a precursor to heart failure," says Kerry J. Stewart, Ed.D., senior study author and director of clinical exercise physiology. "Our findings suggest a need for greater vigilance in detecting and treating even mild elevations in blood pressure, especially among women."
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Johns Hopkins' Division of Cardiology
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