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A change in your blood pressure during middle age can significantly increase
the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke later in life, according to a new study.


US researchers found that men and women who develop high blood pressure in middle age
have an estimated 30 per cent greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke compared with
those whose blood pressure is in the normal range.


In contrast to this, people who maintain or reduce their blood pressure to normal levels
by age 55 have the lowest lifetime risk for a heart attack or a stroke, the study found.


Usually a person's risk of heart disease and stroke is based on a single blood pressure measurement,
and the higher the reading, the greater the risk, researchers at Northwestern University, Chicago said.


However, this latest research found that a change in blood pressure between
the age of 41 to 55 is a more accurate indicator of the risk of stroke or heart disease.


The researchers analysed data from nearly 62,000 people.
Blood pressure measurements were taken when the people were aged 41, and then at 55.
After this, changes in blood pressure were tracked until the participants experienced their
first heart attack or stroke or up to the age of 95 or death.


Men who developed high blood pressure in middle age or who started out with high blood pressure
had a 70 per cent risk of having a heart attack or stroke compared with a 41 per cent risk for men
who maintained low blood pressure or whose blood pressure decreased during this period.


Women who developed high blood pressure had almost a 50 per cent risk of a heart attack or stroke
compared to a 22 per cent risk for women who had low blood pressure or whose blood pressure
decreased during the study.


"We found the longer we can prevent hypertension or postpone it,
the lower the risk for cardiovascular disease," said Dr Norrina Allen,
at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who led the study.


"Even for people with normal blood pressure, we want to make sure they keep it at that level,
and it doesn't start increasing over time."
"There hasn't been as much of a focus on keeping it low when people are in their 40's and 50's.
That's before a lot of people start focussing on cardiovascular disease risk factors.
"We've shown it's vital to start early," she added.


The study is published in the journal Circulation
.

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