Hypertension Now, Heart Risk Later

Blood pressure changes can increase stroke risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Blood pressure changes during middle age may be more significant than they appear. An increase or decrease in blood pressure during that period can increase lifetime risk of heart disease and stroke.

Individuals who maintain or lower their blood pressure by the age of 55 appear to have the lowest lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease, with a risk between 22 percent and 41 percent, while those who already have high blood pressure by age 55 are at the highest risk, between 42 percent and 69 percent.

"Exercise and consume healthy foods to keep blood pressure low."

Norrina Allen, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the department of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said considering blood pressure changes may provide more accurate estimates for lifetime cardiovascular disease risk, and could better help doctors anticipate individual risk and suggest prevention strategies.

He noted that both avoiding hypertension during middle age or delaying its onset appear to have a significant impact on a patient's remaining lifetime risk for heart disease.

Researchers reviewed data for 61,585 patients who participated in the Cardiovascular Lifetime Risk Pooling Project, in which investigators examined how changes in blood pressure during middle age affected lifetime heart disease risk. For the purpose of the study, 55 was considered middle age.

During the study blood pressure was tracked from an average of 14 years prior through age 55. Patients were then followed until their first cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke, death or age 95.

They found that nearly 70 percent of men who develop high blood pressure during middle age experience a cardiovascular event by the age of 85.

Researchers also discovered that women who develop high blood pressure during middle age, at an average age of 41, have a higher lifetime heart risk at 49 percent as compared to those who maintain normal blood pressure through the age of 55. Women were more likely to have blood pressure increases during middle age.

Overall lifetime cardiovascular risk for those 55 and older was 53 percent for men and 40 percent for women when all blood pressure levels were considered.

Researchers said that the findings allow those most at risk of heart disease or stroke to take preventative steps to protect their health.

The study was recently published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

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Review Date: 
December 15, 2011
Last Updated:
December 19, 2011