High blood pressure at mid age may raise risk for heart attacks and stroke

A hike in your blood pressure during middle age significantly raises the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke during your lifetime, according to new Northwestern Medicine research. The study offers a new understanding on the importance of maintaining low blood pressure early in middle age to prevent heart disease later in life.

Men and women who developed high blood pressure in middle age or who started out with high blood pressure had an estimated 30 percent increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke compared to those who kept their blood pressure low.

Previous estimates of a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease were based on a single blood pressure measurement. The higher the blood pressure reading, the greater the risk. The new Northwestern Medicine study expands on that by showing a more accurate predictor is a change in blood pressure from age 41 to 55.

The study is published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

“We found the longer we can prevent hypertension or postpone it, the lower the risk for cardiovascular disease,” said lead author Norrina Allen, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Even for people with normal blood pressure, we want to make sure they keep it at that level, and it doesn’t start increasing over time.”

“There hasn’t been as much of a focus on keeping it low when people are in their 40’s and 50’s,” Allen added. “That’s before a lot of people start focusing on cardiovascular disease risk factors. We’ve shown it’s vital to start early.”    People that maintain or reduce their blood pressure to normal levels by age 55 have the lowest lifetime risk for a heart attack or a stroke.

Men who developed high blood pressure in middle age or who started out with high blood pressure had a 70 percent risk of having a heart attack or stroke compared to a 41 percent risk for men who maintained low blood pressure or whose blood pressure decreased during the time period. Women who developed high blood pressure had almost a 50 percent risk of a heart attack or stroke compared to a 22 percent risk for those who kept their blood pressure low or saw a decrease.

Men generally have a 55 percent risk of cardiovascular disease in their lifetimes; women have a 40 percent risk.

The research was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

By Marla Paul — NU health sciences editor

5 Comments

  1. Prikkelbare Darm syndroom
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    As a health and nutrition therapist i have had the opportunity to guide some people in regaining their health. My first approach is always to detoxify the body and bring it back from a situation of acidosis to a situation of alkalinity. Why i find over and over again is that when the pH of the urine rises over time due to alkalisation by limiting stress and the intake of acid forming foods and increasing the intake of alkaline forming foods and alkaline drinks, also the blood pressure drops. Also the LDL cholesterol levels drop down to normal levels. I have come to the conclusion that the correlation between high bloodpressure and heart attacks is that they seem to have the same root cause which is the acidification of the body fluids and the tissues. So it makes perfect sense to me that an increase in bloodpressure increases the risk of a stroke or heart attack. It looks like the bloodpressure increase IS not the cause but HAS the same cause as the heart attack and stroke. Of course as an individual i cannot perform any clinical double blind studies to prove this. I can only supply anecdotal evidence, but i thought it could be worthwhile to post this comment.

    I am curious about feedback in this.

    Best regards,

    Hans Brouwer

  2. Jenny
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    I think this is fair to say but as with all things, there are many lifestyle factors that will increase and decrease risk. Being moderately active at the very least and taking care of your diet should be primary concerns for all us women as we get older.

  3. transcribe
    Posted June 19, 2012 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    Very important research indeed! Most people in their middle age get tensed due to job, career and other things which leads to high blood pressure, which again leads to heart problems. We should be very careful about our health and family.

  4. Jay
    Posted June 19, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    I’d be curious about women who develop high blood pressure during pregnancy that returns to normal after delivery. Do you expect that “temporary high blood pressure” over a period of several months would increase their overall lifetime risk of stroke and heart attack?

  5. esophageal cancer treatment
    Posted June 28, 2012 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    Really give a great information regarding blood pressure and heart attack too. High blood pressure can raise the cause stroke or heart attack which may be the measure problem for future.

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