Blood Pressure in Middle Age Key to Heart Risk
< Dec. 21, 2011 > -- The more years you can keep your blood pressure in the normal range, the lower your risk for heart disease and stroke as you age, a new study says.
Specifically, researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago looked at blood pressure in middle age and how it affected heart disease and stroke risk in later life.
The researchers examined data on nearly 62,000 people who were 55 at the start of the study and followed them for an average of 14 years.
People who had normal blood pressure in middle age had a 22 to 41 percent chance of developing heart disease or stroke in later life. Those who had high blood pressure in middle age saw their risk for heart disease and stroke rise to 42 to 69 percent.
Control is critical
The study results, published in this week's issue of the journal Circulation, underscore the need to keep blood pressure under control, says Robert Graham, M.D., at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"Unfortunately, many patients do not take this 'silent disease' seriously because they usually don't see or feel the effects of their hypertension until some catastrophic outcome has occurred," Dr. Graham says.
The study also found that women's blood pressure rose more steeply than men's in middle age, probably because of menopause. Women who had high blood pressure by around age 40 had a higher lifetime risk for heart disease (49 percent) than those who have maintained normal blood pressure up to age 55.
Nearly 70 percent of men who developed high blood pressure in middle age had a stroke or heart attack by age 85, the researchers found.
"With medications and lifestyle changes, patients who control their blood pressure during middle age had the lowest lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease, while those with an increase in blood pressure had the highest risk," Dr. Graham says.
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Ways to Control High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, you can manage your condition with your health care provider's help. In most cases, the condition responds to treatment - and lifestyle changes.
Take your blood pressure medication as prescribed, and consider making some of these changes:
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.
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