A new study suggests that doctors should look at a patient’s blood pressure history as opposed to a single reading as a means to predict the stroke risk. Researcher Dr. Marileen Portegies said, “Our study suggests that looking at someone’s blood pressure over time and whether it increases slowly or steeply may provide additional information above only the level of blood pressure at a certain time.”
Hypertension – high blood pressure – is the number one risk factor for stroke, but many studies only look at a single reading as opposed to numerous readings over the course of time.
The researchers collected 20 years worth of data of systolic blood pressure from over 6,700 Dutch adults. The study began in 1990 and the follow-up lasted for two decades.
Researchers found that those with rising blood pressure after midlife and those who had high blood pressure but dropped after the age of 65 were at the highest risk of stroke or death from other blood pressure-related diseases.
Moderately high blood pressure was associated with the highest stroke risk of all, but was also associated with the lowest risk of death by heart attack, heart failure, and kidney disease.
The researchers identified the following blood pressure patterns:
- Most common was a gradual increase in blood pressure from normal systolic blood pressure (120 mm Hg) in middle age to high (160 mm Hg).
- Normal blood pressure in middle age, but a steep rise to very high (200 mm Hg).
- Moderately high blood pressure (140 mm Hg) in middle age that did not change much.
- High blood pressure (160 mm Hg) in middle age, which decreased after 65. This pattern was more frequent in men, and these patients were more likely than others to take blood pressure medication.
Over the two decades, over 1,000 study participants suffered a stroke. Portegies added, “The highest risk of stroke and death was found in the class with a high midlife blood pressure and the class that increased steeply in blood pressure.”
The study reaffirms the importance of maintaining healthy blood pressure throughout one’s life.
Also, read Bel Marra Health’s article on High blood pressure risk from sugar in processed foods higher than from added salt: Study.