Men are from Mars and women from Venus, right? When it comes to treating blood pressure problems this may be more the case than ever, a new study reveals.

Doctors may need to treat high blood pressure in women earlier and more aggressively than they do in men says a new study published in Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease.

The researchers looked at 100 men and women aged 53 and older with untreated high blood pressure and found significant differences in the mechanisms that cause high blood pressure in women compared to men. They found 30 to 40 per cent more vascular disease in the women compared to the men for the same level of elevated blood pressure.

Heart Foundation’s National Director of Cardiovascular Health Dr Robert Grenfell said the study findings were interesting and more research was needed to fully understand the differences that cause and effect high blood pressure in women and men.

“Research like this is helping to better understand the differences between men and women and to help develop and tailor better treatments,” he says. “The Heart Foundation is currently funding similar research to this here in Australia that looks at how the sex-genes influence the development of high blood pressure.

“While the differences between high blood pressure in men and women are not yet fully understood, we do know that women are protected in their younger years by higher oestrogen levels.”

The latest ABS Australian Health Survey results show startling figures – 4.6 million adult Australians have high blood pressure but only 1.46 million of these people have their blood pressure under control. With high blood pressure a major risk factor for heart disease (Australia’s number one killer), these statistics are concerning. 

“High blood pressure is often called a silent killer because there are no obvious symptoms – the only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to ask your GP for a regular check up,” says Dr Grenfell. “The large amount of salt in the Australian diet is concerning and we believe that more must be done by government and the food industry to make our foods healthier.”

Reducing the amount of salt consumed is the single biggest step you can take to prevent high blood pressure. 75 per cent of the salt we consume is hidden in processed foods like cereals, processed meats, cheese and sauces – visit the Heart Foundation’s campaign Halt Hidden Salt website to find out ways to avoid this silent killer.