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Cool Head Now = Good Blood Pressure Later

Young Adults' Reactions Means High Blood Pressure in Their 40s
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WebMD Health News

June 21, 2004 -- Advice to young adults: Don't overreact so much. Staying cool now reduces high blood pressure risk later, a new study shows.

When 20-year-olds react to stress with spikes in blood pressure, they are more likely to have high blood pressure when they hit their 40s, reports researcher Karen A. Matthews, PhD, with the University of Pittsburgh. Her study appears in the current issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Everyone reacts to life's stresses differently -- regardless of whether they are men or women, regardless of their ethnicity, writes Matthews. She investigated whether these different blood pressure responses determine who gets high blood pressure later.

In their 13-year study, Matthews and her colleagues tracked the development of heart disease in 5,115 men and women, all about age 22 at the study's beginning.

Each volunteer was examined at years two, five, seven, 10, and at the study's end. At each visit, they performed three tests that triggered a stress response, and their blood pressure change was noted.

After 13 years, 353 volunteers developed high blood pressure, she reports. Those who had the greatest blood pressure increases during all three tasks had the highest risk for high blood pressure 13 years later, writes Matthews.

Although her findings confirm a long-standing theory, they don't show the mechanism -- what's happening in the body to create this pattern, she notes. It's possible that frequent blood pressure changes lead to artery damage. Or perhaps the pattern reflects generally constant, high levels of stress hormones, leading to high blood pressure. Or perhaps the pattern reflects a vulnerability within the blood vessels themselves -- that they cannot adequately withstand frequent blood pressure changes.

Nevertheless, her study showed that it's possible to tell -- in young adulthood -- whether someone will develop high blood pressure later on.

SOURCE: Matthews, K. Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, July 6, 2004.

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