The Invisible Toll of Stress

High blood pressure may be more common among stressed, young men

(RxWiki News) Attention all you young guys out there — if you're stressed out a lot, it may be something to worry about.

A new study from Sweden found that men who were more susceptible to stress in early adulthood were also more likely to develop high blood pressure later in life. If left untreated, high blood pressure can increase the risk of both heart attack and stroke.

While past research has found a link between high stress reactivity and blood pressure, researchers said this study is the first to look at the link over many years.

Casey Crump, MD, PhD, led this study of more than 1.5 million men. All of these men were 18-years-old when they enlisted in the Swedish military between 1969 and 1997, and were followed through 2012. At the time of enlistment, none had high blood pressure. Dr. Crump is an associate professor of medicine at Stanford University.

Each man completed an interview with a psychologist at the time of enlistment. The goal of these interviews was to determine how well the men could cope with military service and armed combat. Each man was rated on a scale of 1 to 9, with 9 indicating the highest resilience to stress.

Between 1969 and 2012, 93,000 of these men were diagnosed with high blood pressure. The average age at the time of diagnosis was 49.

Men who scored on the low end of the stress resilience scale were more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure later in life. In fact, those who scored in the bottom 20 percent of the scale had a 40 percent increased risk of high blood pressure compared to those who scored in the upper 20 percent.

Being overweight was another risk factor, according to Dr. Crump and team. Men who were overweight and also had low stress resilience scores at age 18 were more than three times as likely to develop high blood pressure in their later years.

The study was published Feb. 1 in the journal Heart.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the Swedish Research Council and Lund University funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
January 28, 2016