Blood Pressure in Middle Age Affects Lifetime CVD Risk

People with healthy BP levels by age 55 have the lowest lifetime risk for CVD

TUESDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Changes in blood pressure (BP) during middle age significantly impact lifetime risk (LTR) for cardiovascular disease (CVD), with a possible dose-response effect for the number of years with high BP on the LTR of CVD, coronary heart disease, and stroke, according to research published online Dec. 19 in Circulation.

Norrina Allen, Ph.D., of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues analyzed data from 61,585 participants in the Cardiovascular Lifetime Risk Pooling Project, a pooling of 17 U.S. epidemiological cohort studies. Researchers tracked BP changes for an average of 14 years prior to age 55, then followed the patients until the occurrence of a first cardiovascular event (including heart attack or stroke), death, or age 95. Age 55 was considered the index point for middle age.

The researchers found that people who maintain or reduce their BP to normal levels during middle age have the lowest LTR of CVD (22 to 41 percent), while those with hypertension by age 55 have the highest LTR (42 to 69 percent). At an average age of 55 years, 49.4 percent of men and 47.5 percent of women had prehypertension, with a LTR for CVD of 52.5 percent for men and 39.9 percent for women. The investigators predicted that almost 70 percent of all men who develop high blood pressure in middle age will experience a CVD event by age 85. Some gender and racial differences in hypertension and LTR existed, with women having higher increases in blood pressure during middle age (40 percent of women) and blacks having a higher LTR for CVD compared with whites of the same sex.

"Individuals who experience increases or decreases in BP in middle age have associated higher and lower remaining LTR for CVD. Prevention efforts should continue to emphasize the importance of lowering BP and avoiding or delaying the incidence of hypertension to reduce the LTR for CVD," the authors write.

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