-- Robert Preidt
MONDAY, Nov. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Young adults with elevated
blood pressure have an increased risk of death decades later,
according to a new study.
High blood pressure is a known risk factor for coronary heart
disease and stroke but most of the evidence supporting this
connection has come from studies of middle-aged and elderly
For this investigation of the long-term impact of elevated blood
pressure in young adults, the researchers examined data from the
Harvard Alumni Health Study. The participants were Harvard students
who had a physical exam when they began university at about age 18
between 1916 and 1950.
The participants filled out a health questionnaire when they
were middle-aged (mean age 46 years). The researchers then looked
at death certificates issued for participants until the end of
After adjusting for age, body mass index, smoking status and
physical activity, the researchers found that elevated blood
pressure when the participants were young adults was associated
with an increased risk of all-cause death, cardiovascular
disease-related death and coronary heart disease-related death
during the follow-up period.
Specifically, a 13.1 mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure
(the top number) at the initial physical examination was associated
with a 5 percent increase in all-cause death, an 8 percent increase
in cardiovascular disease-related death, and a 14 percent increase
in heart disease-related death.
These increased risks persisted, but were slightly less, after
the researchers adjusted for high blood pressure in middle age.
There was no link found between elevated blood pressure in young
adulthood and increased risk of stroke later in life.
The researchers said their findings show the importance of
paying attention to blood pressure elevations in young adults.
The study appears in the Nov. 29 issue of the
Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The clinical implications of the finding that blood pressure
matters even during young adulthood are "potentially profound," Dr.
Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an associate professor of medicine and of
epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San
Francisco, wrote in an accompanying editorial.
She noted that young adults are less likely than middle-aged and
older adults to be aware that they have high blood pressure, less
likely to be on treatment for it and less likely to have it under
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
high blood pressure.
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