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Dr. Campbell: Blood pressure trajectory and heart disease

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Blood pressure is the force of blood against yourartery walls as it circulates through your body. It normally risesand falls throughout the day, but it can cause health problems if it stays highfor a long time.

Doctors say a good baseline blood pressure is 120 over 80. A blood pressure equal to or above 140 over 90 is cause for concern. Sixty-seven million American adults (31 percent) have high bloodpressure—that's one in every three American adults.

Anyone, including children, can develop high blood pressure. It greatlyincreases the risk for heart disease and stroke, the first and third leadingcauses of death in the United States.

 

Long standing high blood pressure canincrease your risk for stroke and heart disease and can damage the inside walls of bloodvessels which can promote the formation of heart blockages called"plaques." 

This week astudy was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A recent study at Northwestern University demonstrated that highblood pressure in women as young as 18 predicts heart disease later inlife. The study is a "call to action"for more aggressive prevention and intervention in younger patients.

The study also found distinct blood pressure patterns from ages18 to 55 that reveal people at high risk for calcification of coronary arteries-- a marker for heart disease -- by middle age. Also known as hardening of thearteries, these calcium deposits can narrow coronary arteries and increaseheart attack risk.

The study used data from 4,681 participants in the CoronaryArtery Risk Development in Young Adults Study from baseline years 1985-1986through 25 years of follow-up. The participants (black and white men and women)were 18 to 25 years old when the study began and from four urban citiesincluding Chicago, Birmingham, Ala., Minneapolis and Oakland, Calif.

The highest risk group had elevated blood pressure compared totheir peers at age 18, but it was still within the range considered normal;this tended to develop into hypertension by middle age. They were four timesmore likely to have coronary artery calcification.

 

The study identified five patterns in blood pressure from youngadulthood to middle age:

  • 22 percent of participants maintained low blood pressurethroughout follow-up (low-stable group)
  • 42 percent had moderate levels (moderate-stable group)
  • 12 percent started with moderate levels which increased at anaverage age of 35 years (moderate-increasing group)
  • 19 percent had relatively elevated levels throughout(elevated-stable group)
  • 5 percent started with elevated blood pressure, which increasedduring follow-up (elevated-increasing group).

Groups with elevated or increasing blood pressure were at thehighest risk for developing calcification of coronary arteries. The study alsofound African Americans and smokers were more likely to experience rapidincreases in blood pressure during middle age, placing them at higher risk ofheart disease.

For more tips and information, check out the attached video.

Dr. Kevin Campbell appears on WNCN Today at 6:15 a.m. on Wednesdays.

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