Gender differences in the regulation of blood pressure

Hypertension. 2001 May;37(5):1199-208. doi: 10.1161/01.hyp.37.5.1199.


Men are at greater risk for cardiovascular and renal disease than are age-matched, premenopausal women. Recent studies using the technique of 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring have shown that blood pressure is higher in men than in women at similar ages. After menopause, however, blood pressure increases in women to levels even higher than in men. Hormone replacement therapy in most cases does not significantly reduce blood pressure in postmenopausal women, suggesting that the loss of estrogens may not be the only component involved in the higher blood pressure in women after menopause. In contrast, androgens may decrease only slightly, if at all, in postmenopausal women. In this review the possible mechanisms by which androgens may increase blood pressure are discussed. Findings in animal studies show that there is a blunting of the pressure-natriuresis relationship in male spontaneously hypertensive rats and in ovariectomized female spontaneously hypertensive rats treated chronically with testosterone. The key factor in controlling the pressure-natriuresis relationship is the renin-angiotensin system (RAS). The possibility that androgens increase blood pressure via the RAS is explored, and the possibility that the RAS also promotes oxidative stress leading to production of vasoconstrictor substances and reduction in nitric oxide availability is proposed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / physiology
  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Estrogens / physiology
  • Estrogens / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypertension* / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Postmenopause / physiology
  • Renin-Angiotensin System / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Testosterone / physiology


  • Androgens
  • Estrogens
  • Testosterone