High blood pressure, also sometimes referred to as hypertension, is one of the risk factors for both cardiovascular -- CVD or heart disease -- and stroke. It’s generally accepted that maintaining normal blood pressure, or lowering high blood pressure to acceptable levels, decreases your risk of heart-related diseases or stroke.
According to new research, maintaining normal blood pressure levels during middle-age may be more important than previously thought, especially as it relates to your overall lifetime risk of heart disease.
In a study led by Norrina Allen, PhD, researchers examined the effect of blood pressure changes during middle age on the lifetime risk of developing heart disease. Allen is an assistant professor in the Department of Preventative Medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois.
Researchers obtained their data from the Cardiovascular Lifetime Risk Pooling Project. In all, researchers examined data from more than 61,500 Pooling Project participants.
For purposes of this study, researchers defined age 55 as the middle-age mid-point. Using a baseline blood pressure reading, researchers followed participants’ blood pressure changes for 14 years until the mid-point age of 55 years was reached.
After age 55, researchers continued to follow participants’ blood pressure changes until one of the following milestone events occurred: first stroke, heart attack, or other cardiovascular-related event, participant death, or age 95.
Researchers found that participants who maintained normal blood pressure levels during middle-age enjoyed a lower overall lifetime risk of heart disease than their counterparts with higher than normal blood pressure. Participants with normal blood pressure were found to have a lifetime risk of heart-related disease of 22 to 41 percent compared to 44 to 69 percent lifetime risk for participants with high blood pressure.
With respect to women in particular, researchers found that blood pressure levels in women tended to increase more during middle-age.