High-normal blood pressure risks in young

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
July 15, 2008 7:38:34 AM PDT
Most young adults, people in their twenties, don't pay attention to their blood pressure numbers. A large medical study says there's information in those numbers that can give a warning about the future.

We know high blood pressure is a red flag for heart disease, but even readings that fall just below the cutoff for hypertension are now also a red flag.

That research is true for older adults and now we find its also true for younger people. In other words, what's considered "high and dangerous" for all is now a lower reading.

For twenty years, researchers followed over 35-hundred young adults between the ages of 18 and 30.

They measured their high blood pressure and checked their heart arteries.

Over the course of the study, they found that 20 percent of the participants had developed what has been classified as pre-hypertension -- numbers that were below the cutoff for hypertension.

The surprise was that even at those people at "pre-hyptertension" were more likely to have calcium plaque in their arteries than those with lower blood pressure.

Dr. Mark Pletcher was one of the researchers of the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine: Summaries for Patients

"We found that prehypertension or mild Iwo levels of elevation in blood pressure are associated with atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries later in life,' Dr. Pletcher.

Athersclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, could lead to heart attack or heart failure.

The study suggests that young adults, as has previously been found for older adults, should keep their blood pressure below 120 over 80. Even slightly higher number could raise one risk for calcium in the arteries.

"Blood pressure levels that are less than a 140 over 90 shouldn't be ignored," Pletcher said.

Not ignoring it could encourage young people like Teroll Melton, who was part of the study, to take better care of themselves.

"How to know the right things to eat, how to do exercise and things of that nature. It really opened my eyes," Melton said.

Opened his eyes. That's what knowing this kind of information should do for all patients. Having blood pressure that formerly was thought to be just a little bit high is now known to be a threat. Keep these numbers in mind: 120 over 80. If it's not there, start changing your diet and exercise habits, and talk to your doctor.