Young adults with high blood pressure could benefit from sex-specific medication

Sex-specific treatments of hypertension in teenagers and young adults might prove to be beneficial later in life, a group of Canadian scientists have found.

Blood pressure-lowering medications aren’t currently gender-specific, and no such contemporary guidelines or treatment suggestions exist, Catriona Syme, PhD, said in her recent study. While past studies have looked into sex differences in relation to blood pressure, that research has largely been limited to older adults between 60 and 70 years old.

In those age groups, Syme and co-authors wrote, blood pressure might not vary as much because most women in those study groups were likely menopausal and experienced many of the same symptoms as men of the same age. With menopause comes the reduction in female sex hormone production, which could contribute to the leveling of hypertension causes. In contrast, Syme said, she and her colleagues believed premenopausal women may be experiencing hypertension for different reasons than men around their age.

Syme explains in the study that three factors determine blood pressure: heart rate, stroke volume and total peripheral resistance. She and colleagues analyzed 1,347 Canadians to determine gender differences in blood pressure. The majority of patients—nearly 70 percent—were adolescents, while the remaining were adults between ages 36 and 65. The researchers used rest, posture changes and mental stressors over the period of an hour to evaluate all three blood pressure determinants in each patient.

According to the study, researchers saw vast differences between women in men when it came to what controls their blood pressure. Stroke volume, or the amount of blood pumped by the heart with each beat, explained 55 percent of variance in systolic blood pressure in all female patients, while that number was just 35 percent in males. Men were more susceptible to total peripheral resistance, which accounted for 47 percent of their variance, versus 30 percent in women.

No study before had used motions mimicking daily activities to track blood pressure variance in a large population, the research states. Syme said her study was conducted using only white patients; future research should explore hypertension across different races. Until then, it could be beneficial to prescribe blood pressure medication based on a patient’s age and gender.