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Oct 15, 2014 05:35 AM EDT

Women and Men Prescribed Different Treatments for High Blood Pressure, Study

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Women and men receive different treatments for high blood pressure, according to a new study by the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg.

High blood pressure is one of the most common risk factors for cardiovascular events like stroke, heart failure and heart attack.

For the study, the researchers analysed 40,825 patients treated for high blood pressure in primary care and found that women and men are given different medication to lower their blood pressure levels. Women are often recommended prescribed diuretic medication, while men are prescribed ACE inhibitors (which block an enzyme in the kidneys).

The researchers said that differences in treatment between women and men are more prominent among patients with limited education.

"International guidelines recommend that patients with both high blood pressure and diabetes be treated with ACE inhibitors," said doctoral student and medical doctor Charlotta Ljungman, author of the study, in a statement. "But our study shows that women are less likely to be given this treatment. What's more, this discrepancy can't be explained away by differences in other concurrent cardiovascular disorders."

Women are also less likely than men to reach the general treatment target of blood pressure below 140/90 mm Hg, which is the threshold for high blood pressure. The reason why women are less likely to hit the target blood pressure is partly because they are generally diagnosed with high blood pressure at an older age.

"But this shouldn't make a difference, as previous studies have shown that older patients with high blood pressure also benefit considerably from treatment to lower their blood pressure, not least to prevent the development of disorders such as stroke, dementia and heart failure," said Ljungman.

Ljungman said that reaching target blood pressure is necessary to bring down their high blood pressure. The finding suggests that steps must be introduced to improve treatment among women.

A recent study published in the journal Neurology found that high blood pressure in middle age may affect memory and thinking in old age. The researchers said that patients with a history of high blood pressure in middle age and lower diastolic blood pressure in older age were associated with smaller total brain and gray matter volumes.

"Our findings bring new insight into the relationship between a history of high blood pressure, blood pressure in old age, the effects of blood pressure on brain structure, and memory and thinking," Lenore J. Launer,  study author and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, said in a press release.

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