Sympathetic nerve activity and hypertension: When sex matters

      Hypertension is the leading cause of mortality world-wide. According to the world health organisation, hypertension is responsible for 62% of strokes, 49% of all cases of heart diseases and 13% of world wide deaths (WHO. 2011. Global status report of non-communicable diseases). Interestingly, the development of hypertension maybe sex specific; women are protected against the development if hypertension until the age of menopause, where prevalence increase and becomes equivalent to that (or higher) in age matched men. Over the past decade, research into sex differences in the control of resting blood pressure has helped us to begin to understand why women are protected against the development of high blood pressure and why postmenopausal women are more at risk of developing hypertension. More specifically, research has shown that sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) is more important in maintaining peripheral resistance in men and that SNA becomes central in determining resting blood pressure in postmenopausal women; something that is not observed in young men or women. However, to date, much of this research has focused on healthy normotensive men and women. This talk will summarise some of the past research which has helped us understand sex differences in resting blood pressure control and will move onto some newer data focusing on potential sex differences in the role that SNA has in the development of hypertension.
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