Researchers have found that young adults in their 20’s and 30’s who experience inconsistent blood pressure may be at a higher risk for heart disease by middle age.
For the study, the researchers took three blood pressure readings from 3,394 participants in 1 minute intervals at an initial exam. They then repeated the process 2, 5, 7 and 10 years later. After 10 years, the average age of the participants was 35, with 3% taking antihypertensive medication. They continued follow-up tests at 15, 20, 25 and 30 year intervals.
In the end, the researchers found that those who had greater variability in blood pressure between visits before reaching 40 years of age tended to have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality later on. In particular, they found that a 3.6mm spike in blood pressure during young adulthood was linked with a 15% higher risk of cardiovascular events later in life.
All in all, during the follow-up period, the researchers recorded 162 cardiovascular events including heart failure, stroke and transient ischemic attack. They also recorded 181 deaths.
From the findings, the researchers conclude that assessing the variance of patients’ systolic blood pressure (the amount of pressure in arteries as the heart muscle contracts) between clinical visits may help identify young adults at risk of heart disease later on.
It also suggests that young adults- even if those that are seemingly healthy- should check their blood pressure more frequently. Dr. Brian Kolski, director of the structural heart disease program at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County, California, said that blood pressure checks among young people should happen at least once per year.
Although these findings may be able guide medical professionals and patients toward preventive treatment plans, the researchers warn that their findings may not be relevant to all ethnic groups. This comes as 54% of the study participants were caucasuin whereas 46% were African American. Moreover, the research does not explain how systolic blood pressure variability among young people may lead to an increased risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality later in life.