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Midlife Blood Pressure May Cause Stroke

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Fluctuating blood pressure during the middle-age years could boost the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to research in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

People properly managing their blood pressure—by age 55—were the least at risk. While those poorly managing their blood pressure had 42 to 69 percent of developing the disease, people maintaining or reducing their blood pressure face a 22 to 41 percent risk.

The findings were based on data gathered from nearly 61,600 Cardiovascular Lifetime Risk Pooling Project participants.

Researchers looked at blood pressure changes occurring during middle age how that influenced lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease. For this project, age 55 is considered middle-age.

Using a baseline of blood pressure data of, on average, more than 10 years before, researchers chronicled changes until age 55. They followed patients until the first cardiovascular event—heart attack or stroke—death or age 95.

“Taking blood pressure changes into account can provide more accurate estimates for lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease, and it can help us predict individualized risk, and thus, individualized prevention strategies,” said lead study author and assistant professor at the Northwestern University Department of Preventive Medicine Norrina Allen, Ph.D. said.

“Avoiding hypertension during middle age or delaying the onset of the development of hypertension appears to have a significant impact on an individual’s remaining lifetime risk for CVD,” she added.

Researchers also found that nearly 70 percent of all men developing high blood pressure in middle age will have a cardiovascular disease event by age 85. A little more than 25 percent of men, by age 55, had normal blood pressure levels and 49.4 percent had prehypertension.

More than 52 percent of men have an overall lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease, when factoring in all blood pressure levels. That risk was higher among blacks compared with whites of the same sex, and increased with rising blood pressure at middle age.

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