Doctors are currently more likely to recommend blood pressure medications for older people who have a higher overall cardiovascular risk, thanks in part to their age, and few monitor patients' blood pressure frequently enough to track the rate of increase.
The current "watch-and-wait" approach to high blood pressure readings in younger people may set patients on a course for irreversible heart damage.
A new research suggests that early detection and treatment of rapidly rising blood pressure in midlife may be required to prevent long-term damage to the heart.
The study tracked cardiac health indicators 1,653 men and women over 66 years and found that a sharp rise in blood pressure in midlife, not just crossing a certain threshold, can increase a person's risk of heart disease later in life.
Medications do not fully reverse damage to the heart from high blood pressure
The results revealed people who experienced a relatively rapid increase in blood pressure during midlife typically had a larger left ventricle -- an independent risk factor for heart disease and other health problems -- than those whose blood pressure edged up more slowly or later in life. Those taking medication to manage high blood pressure had a larger left ventricle than those with the same blood pressure who had never taken medication, suggesting that treatment in later life did not reverse the consequences of a rapid rise in blood pressure in earlier years.
Based on the study findings, a borderline or pre-hypertensive blood pressure reading (a systolic pressure of 120 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure from 80 to 89 mm Hg) -- even in your 30s -- should warrant more frequent monitoring so doctors can assess the rate of change in blood pressure.
"If people have a rapid rise in blood pressure, early treatment should be considered, because we know from this study that, 30 years down the line, they're going to have more heart damage than somebody with a slower rise in blood pressure," Dr. Arjun K. Ghosh said on behalf of the study team.
The above story is based on the March 24, 2012 news release byAmerican College of Cardiology.
The research was presented at the recent American College of Cardiology's 61st Annual Scientific Session.