Increases in blood pressure are age-related

Washington: A study has found that blood pressure, which leads to life-threatening heart attacks and stroke when increased, changes at four phases throughout life.

A team of researchers led by Andrew Wills from the Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, University College London, used data from several UK studies in which blood pressure measurements in individuals were repeatedly taken over time.

The results showed a rapid increase during adolescent growth, a gentler increase in early adulthood, a midlife acceleration (usually in the 40s), and finally for a period during late adulthood blood pressure increases slowly and then reverses.

The authors analyzed the blood pressure measurements from a total of 30,372 individuals aged between 7 to 80 years and investigated the differences between the measurements in the studies done in the general population and in an occupational group.

Compared to the general population, the occupational group had lower average blood pressure, and midlife blood pressure acceleration appeared to begin later.

Wider evidence suggests that this might in part reflect modifiable blood pressure-related factors such as diet and lifestyle that can vary with differences in social and economic circumstances.

Furthermore, although at the beginning of adulthood women had lower blood pressure than men, an increased midlife acceleration (perhaps due to menopause-related effects on salt sensitivity) meant that later in life, men and women had similar average blood pressures.

The findings also support the wide body of evidence that show a strong link between body mass index and blood pressure throughout life.

“Whilst our study is unable to identify the key determinants of age-related increases in blood pressure, further research should try to understand which factors affect this trajectory and when in the life course such factors exhibit most influence,” the authors said.

The findings have been published in this week’s PLoS Medicine.

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