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Jul 11, 2017

Blood Pressure Fluctuation Increases Risk for Heart Events

Variation in blood pressure could spell trouble for patients with heart disease, study finds.

Fluctuation in blood pressure spells trouble for patients with heart disease, based on a recent study that links variation in blood pressure to increased risk for heart attack, stroke and death.

Published in the European Heart Journal, this study explored the impact of changes in blood pressure on risk for heart events. Recent studies, including one published in 2010, suggest that fluctuation in blood pressure may increase heart risks, regardless of average blood pressure.

In the latest study, researchers analyzed data from the STABILITY trial, which tested a new drug in patients with established heart disease. Through the study, more than 15,800 patients had their blood pressure measured on five separate occasions over the course of a year.

Participants’ average blood pressure during the first year was 131/78 mmHg, which is slightly above the recommended 120/80 mmHg. Between office visits, participants’ average blood pressure fluctuated by 9.8 mmHg for systolic (top number in a blood pressure reading) and 6.3 mmHg for diastolic blood pressure (bottom number in a blood pressure reading).

After 3 years of follow-up, researchers found that adults with the greatest fluctuation in blood pressure had the greatest risk of heart events. Overall, a total of 1,010 patients suffered heart attack, stroke or heart-related death during the follow-up period. However, participants with the greatest between-visit fluctuation in blood pressure had 30–38% greater risk for heart events or death than those with more stable blood pressure.

Findings confirm the association between fluctuation in blood pressure and increased heart risks, specifically among patients with heart disease. The next step, according to authors, is to determine whether strategies to stabilize blood pressure helps improve outcomes. Some studies suggest that simple factors like maintaining a heart-healthy diet help reduce variability in blood pressure. If findings are confirmed, it’s likely that these strategies may be especially important for patients with substantial variation in blood pressure.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is hypertension?
  • Hypertension, often referred to as high blood pressure, occurs when the force of blood against the artery walls is too high. High blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer,” because it often causes no symptoms and if left uncontrolled, increases risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Who is at risk for high blood pressure?
  • Risk for hypertension increases with age, and most adults will eventually be affected by this condition at some time in their lives. However, diabetes, obesity, stress, high sodium intake, tobacco use and excessive alcohol use can greatly increase risk for high blood pressure.


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