High blood pressure is typically you should be concerned about, but that wariness increases with age. However, a new pair of studies warns that those who develop high blood pressure before the age of 40 also have an increased risk for stroke and heart disease in middle age.
The first study observed 4,800 young adults in the United States to find that high(er) blood pressure before the age of 40 has been consistently linked with a 350 percent higher risk for heart disease and stroke within the next 20 years.
The second study analyzed data from 2.5 million young adults in South Korea over a ten year period. This study also found that a diagnosis of high blood pressure before the age of 40 could be associated with a greater risk for stroke and heart disease. In addition, the women observed in this study had a 76 percent higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease; the men observed were found to be at an 85 percent higher risk.
Researchers dictate that hypertension (high blood pressure) should be classified when the systolic pressure (top number, which reflects the amount of pressure placed against artery walls during a heartbeat) averages at least 130 millimeters of mercury. They also made sure to describe that hypertension may also be classified as having an average diastolic pressure (bottom number, which reflects the amount of pressure placed against arterial walls when the heart is at rest, between beats) of at least 80 millimeters of mercury.
Before these new recommendations, high blood pressure was only diagnosed when a patient had a blood pressure measurement of at least 140/90.
Combining this data is very important because high blood pressure is also quite often associated with other health risk factors. These can include excess weight, higher blood sugar, high cholesterol, and smoking. These factors—all controllable and preventable—help to contribute to hypertension by damaging target organs and by thickening the arterial walls and by building up cholesterol deposits and plaques in the arteries.
As such, anyone—but younger people in particular—should see a hypertensive diagnosis as an opportunity to make important lifestyle changes. Since blood pressure medications can have some serious side effects (from digestive issues to dizziness to headaches to vomiting to mood disorders), simply modifying your diet and your exercise regimen can make a world of difference.
The studies have both been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).