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February 2023
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Among Young Adults, No Middle Ground- Study: Even Moderately High BP Readings Increases Risk

Checking Blood Pressure You normally don’t associate hypertension with men and women in their early 20s. After all, hypertension is more often diagnosed, shall we say, in the winter of life (Age 40 and upward) as opposed to the spring (i.e. early 20s). This being the case, moderately high blood pressure readings among young adults may not seem all too disquieting. “Why do I need to worry; I’m young, I
exercise, I can get my blood pressure down in no time,” is often the refrain of these young whippersnappers. But according to recent data published in a medical journal, even moderately high blood pressure readings can significantly increase one’s risk for atherosclerosis – particularly among young adults.

Publishing their results in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers studied over 3,500 young men and women over the course of 10 years. During that 10-year period, the researchers routinely checked the participants’ blood pressure levels in order to identify what effect elevated blood pressure levels had on long-term health.  What they found was that among those with just moderately high blood pressure levels – i.e. pre-hypertensive blood pressure levels, which are levels between 120 and 139 for the systolic and between 80 and 89 for the diastolic – they increased their chances of developing atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when the blood vessels narrow due to plaque build-up, which essentially blocks blood from getting to its destination. Atherosclerosis can often lead to stroke, heart attack, congestive heart failure and a number of other life-threatening diseases.

Now, this finding might not seem all that surprising. In fact, it sounds logical: the higher your blood pressure is, the worse it is for your health. But what makes this finding so noteworthy is that even moderately high blood pressure levels should be cause for concern. Even among the young. It should be noted that approximately 20 percent of the 3,500 young adults in the study developed pre-hypertension in the 10-year period – way too high for such a young group of people.

As the lead researchers said, making blood pressure a health priority among young adults will be a challenge. Remaining lean and physically active are important aspects of our health, but so is maintaining a healthy blood pressure. And I think anyone would admit blood pressure does not receive the same media attention as weight loss and exercise receive. That needs to change. After all, there are many people with high blood pressure without their even knowing it (they don’t call hypertension “the silent killer” for nothing). This is because hypertension is no respecter of sizes. In other words, while overweight people are more likely to have hypertension, thin people are at risk for it as well.  If you have a history of it in your family, if you’re African American, if you smoke, if you drink a lot of alcohol, if you eat a lot of salty foods, if you’re pregnant, or if you simply don’t exercise much – you are at an increased risk for hypertension.

No one is immune from hypertension – not even young adults. Not even moderately high blood pressure levels are acceptable. And as the study revealed, the longer your blood pressure levels hover in the “moderately high” range, the greater the risk for developing atherosclerosis.


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