News Wednesday June 15, 2011

Age plays major role in blood pressure changes

30% of the UK’s population suffers from high blood pressure, which can cause potentially lethal infarctions, and a recent study shows the changes occur over specific periods of time.

Researchers from the Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, from the University College London, analysed test samples from a number of studies, a total of over 30,000 individuals with varying ages conducted in the United Kingdom – specifically marking blood pressure levels which had been taken multiple times.

They found that during humans’ lifetimes, blood pressure changed in four dynamic ways. Firstly an increase during young adulthood, then gradually reduces at its second stage afterwards. The third phase then starts during midlife, presenting a faster increase, before finally increasing gradually again during older ages. Essentially an overall increase in blood pressure from youth to old age.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, exerts force on arterial walls and can cause life-threatening cardiac events, stroke, aneurysms and kidney failure if the pressure increases far beyond what the body can handle. With age, this becomes more dangerous as artery walls and organs may have deteriorated.

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

Being able to pinpoint exact phases during lifetimes may allow for more effective usage of statins, commonly used to lower blood pressure, in conjunction with timed treatments. The London-based researchers also found that their data supported previous assumptions concerning body mass index, used for measuring obesity, and a potential link to blood pressure.

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