Researchers followed about 2,000 Norwegian men for an average of 30 years, during which time 270 developed atrial fibrillation.
Men whose systolic blood pressure (the upper number) was in the high-normal range at the start of the study were 50% more likely than men with normal blood pressure to develop the heart rhythm condition.
An earlier study in women who were followed for an average of 14 years also showed high-normal blood pressure to be associated with a higher risk for atrial fibrillation.
In an effort to determine if the earlier findings in women also applied to men, researcher Irene Grundvold, MD, and colleagues from Norway’s Oslo University Hospital analyzed data from a study of men who were in their 40s and 50s when first examined in the early- to mid-1970s.
The men were followed for up to 35 years.
The study revealed that:
Men with systolic blood pressure readings of 140 or higher when they entered the study had a 60% increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation over the next three decades, compared to men with systolic readings below 128.
Men with systolic readings of 128 to 138 at at the start of the study had a 50% increase in risk.
Men with diastolic readings of 80 or higher were 79% more likely than those with lower diastolic blood pressure to develop atrial fibrillation over the next three decades.