New U.S. research has found that younger adults with high blood pressure before the age of 40 have an increased risk of cardiovascular events such as heart failure, strokes and blood vessel blockages as they age.
Led by researchers at Duke Health, the study used the new US blood pressure guidelines issued in 2017, which lowered the clinical definition of high blood pressure from earlier levels, to investigate the association between level of blood pressure (BP) in young adulthood and the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by middle age.
Participants included 4,851 young adults aged 18 to 30 years who had blood pressure measurements taken before age 40 as part of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, which began in 1985.
Participants were then categorized into four groups based on their blood pressure levels: Normal (120 or lower systolic blood pressure over 80 diastolic or less); elevated (120-129 over less than 80); stage 1 hypertension (130-139 over 80-89); or stage 2 hypertension (140 or greater over 90 or greater).
The researchers looked at participants' data over a median of 18.8 years.
The findings, published in JAMA, showed that participants with elevated blood pressure, stage 1 hypertension, and stage 2 hypertension before age 40, as defined by the 2017 guidelines, had a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease events compared with those with normal blood pressure before the age of 40.
"This is a first step in assessing whether high blood pressure, as defined by the new criteria, is something that younger people should be concerned about as a potential precursor to serious problems," commented lead author Dr. Yuichiro Yano. "Although this is an observational study, it demonstrates that the new blood pressure guidelines are helpful in identifying those who might be at risk for cardiovascular events."