The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that roughly 70 million Americans have hypertension (high blood pressure). Only 52 percent of those with hypertension have the condition under control. Additionally, one in three Americans have pre-hypertension, meaning they are at high risk of developing hypertension if they do not take the necessary steps to manage their numbers.
Lifestyle factors can highly contribute to a person’s risk of developing hypertension. To better predict a person’s future risk of hypertension, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine have found that a simple blood test used to detect heart attack may also be able to predict hypertension in the future.
Blood samples were collected from more than 5,000 people. Those who had slightly elevated levels of cardiac troponin T were more likely to receive a diagnosis of hypertension within a few years.
The blood test will now move into clinical trials. If it proves successful, it can be used as a tool to predict future hypertension and begin early prevention.
The troponin T test is already widely used to detect heart attack and is quite cost effective – only $10 to $20. The version of the test for hypertension is more sensitive and, although not used in the U.S., is already commonly used in Europe.
For the study, the participants had no diagnosis of hypertension – a small group did have high-normal blood pressure (27 percent). Those with mild elevations of troponin T had a 13 percent higher rate of developing hypertension during the follow-up. Those with notably elevated levels had a 24 percent higher risk of hypertension.
The findings were published in the September issue of Circulation.
Signs and symptoms of high blood pressure
Hypertension can be symptomless, although many believe that high blood pressure may cause nervousness, sweating, difficulty sleeping, or facial flushing – these are not, in fact, symptoms of hypertension. Some symptoms people may experience with high blood pressure include headaches, nosebleeds, and shortness of breath, but these symptoms will mainly occur during a hypertensive crisis.
Risk factors of hypertension
Some risk factors that contribute to hypertension are unchangeable, but many involve lifestyle choices which can be altered to reduce your blood pressure numbers. Risk factors for hypertension include:
- Age – hypertension is more common in those over 45
- Race – hypertension is more common among African Americans
- Family history – high blood pressure can typically run in the family
- Obesity – extra weight means more oxygen and nutrients to go to your tissues, blood volume increases adding extra pressure
- Inactivity – a lack of exercise can contribute to overworked heart muscles when you partake in daily activities which can increase pressure
- Smoking – can raise blood pressure temporarily, and in the long term it can damage arteries narrowing the passage
- Sodium – leads to fluid retention contributing to higher blood pressure
- Lack of potassium and vitamin D – potassium helps balance sodium, and vitamin D deficiency can contribute to high blood pressure
- Alcohol – long-term drinking can damage your heart
- Stress – increases blood pressure, makes you more likely to partake in risky behaviors which can further contribute to high blood pressure
- Chronic conditions – kidney disease, sleep apnea, and diabetes can also contribute to hypertension
Tips to reduce your risk of high blood pressure
Reducing your blood pressure is easy with some simple changes to your lifestyle. First and foremost, it’s important to know your risk. Does hypertension run in your family? Does your age or race put you at greater risk? If yes, it’s even more important that you begin to align your life with healthy habits in order to reduce your risk of hypertension. Here are some other ways you can reduce your risk of hypertension.
- Lose weight
- Reduce sodium intake
- Ensure you receive enough potassium and vitamin D
- Quit smoking
- Manage underlying medical conditions and chronic conditions
- Minimize alcohol consumption
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Minimize caffeine intake
- Reduce your stress
- Monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis
Until the new test becomes available in the U.S., it’s important you still do as much as you can to lower your risk and prevent hypertension. Lifestyle habits can easily be adjusted in order to protect your heart and lower your blood pressure. If you have factors that increase your risk, you should immediately begin to make these positive changes for the better.