Prehypertension, or blood pressure levels at the upper end of the normal range, can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to threefold, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Medicine.*
Prehypertension is defined as blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 mmHg. Levels of 140/90 mmHg and above are considered high blood pressure, which is a known risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Until recently, however, data on the health risks associated with prehypertension have been incomplete.
Dr. Abhijit V. Kshirsagar and his colleagues at the University of North Carolina conducted a prospective study of 8,960 middle-aged adults, aged 45-64, who were enrolled in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. The researchers monitored the relationship between the participants’ blood pressure values and cardiovascular events for an average of 11.6 years.
During this follow-up period, 772 new cardiovascular disease events were observed within the group. These included documented or suspected myocardial infarction, ischemic stroke, and various cardiac procedures, including coronary artery bypass graft, angioplasty, and stenting.
Prehypertension was associated with a 233% greater risk of cardiovascular events, and was especially dangerous in blacks, diabetics, and obese individuals, increasing risk in these groups by 329%, 410%, and 356%, respectively. Maintaining optimal blood pressure levels below 120/80 mmHg could prevent nearly 30% of new cardiovascular events in the study participants, according to the research team.
Many patients with prehypertension may be able to improve their blood pressure using lifestyle changes such as weight loss and dietary modification, thus improving their cardiovascular risk profiles while avoiding the undesirable side effects associated with prescription hypertension medications.