How Your Blood Pressure May Affect Your Future Heart Health

Hypertension in younger adults may increase risk of future heart disease

(RxWiki News) Your blood pressure is more than just a number. In younger adults, it may help determine future heart disease risk.

A new long-term study found that younger adults with higher systolic blood pressure were at a higher risk for heart disease as they aged.

"Until now, physicians have not considered isolated systolic hypertension to be bad, but this study shows higher risk," said study author Yuichiro Yano, MD, PhD, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, in a press release. "By identifying risks in younger populations, they can be made aware of the need to maintain cardiovascular health as they age."

Dr. Yano and team followed more than 27,000 young men and women from the Chicago Heart Association Detection Program in Industry study. The average age of these patients was 34.

Patients were divided into five groups based on initial blood pressure readings. Blood pressure is recorded as a ratio of two numbers. The top number, or the systolic blood pressure, records the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. The bottom number, or the diastolic blood pressure, records the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest.

Hypertension was present in 39 percent of the study patients. Hypertension occurs when one or both numbers in a blood pressure reading are consistently higher than normal.

Dr. Yano and team tracked incidences of death due to heart disease for over 30 years.

Compared to those with normal blood pressure, men with isolated systolic hypertension (ISH) had a 23 percent increase in heart-related death. Women with ISH had a 55 percent increase in deaths due to heart disease. ISH occur when only the systolic blood pressure is raised above a normal level.

Treating ISH in younger adults may be beneficial in preventing future heart disease. However, "such evidence does not exist for younger and middle-age adults," Dr. Yano said. "Further research is warranted to identify younger and middle-age adults with [ISH] who are at especially greater risk for developing cardiovascular events."

Actions taken to prevent high blood pressure could save many patients' lives, said Michael A. Weber, MD, of the State University of New York in Brooklyn, in an editorial about this study.

"Developing a strategy to provide direction in this area is critical," Dr. Weber wrote. "Elevated systolic or diastolic [blood pressure] or both should clearly be considered abnormal in young adults and lead to therapy."

Dr. Weber continued, "It is to be hoped that early management of hypertension in young adults might beneficially alter its natural history and reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events in later life."

This study was published online Jan. 26 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Awards from the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood institute funded this research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 26, 2015