Fluctuation in Blood Pressure Associated with Increased Heart Risks
Keeping blood pressure consistently in the optimal range should be the goal for adults with hypertension.
Maintaining a consistent blood pressure is important for patients with hypertension (high blood pressure), based on a recent study that found fluctuation in blood pressure is associated with a twofold increase in risk for heart events.
Published in the European Heart Journal, this study looked at how changes in blood pressure impact heart risks. Studies suggest that fluctuation in blood pressure may increase cardiovascular risk, especially in high-risk patients. However, evidence is limited, especially in patients with varying levels of cardiovascular risk.
To learn more, researchers analyzed data from the VALUE trial, which tested two blood pressure medications in more than 13,800 patients with hypertension. The study was conducted in the late 1990s and tracked participants’ blood pressure over an average of 4.2 years.
The average age of participants was 67, 42% of whom were female.
Over the study period, 11% of participants had a heart attack or stroke and 8% died. Researchers found that participants with the greatest fluctuation in blood pressure readings were twice as likely to experience heart events as those with the least amount of fluctuation between visits. Each 5 mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure, which is the top number in a blood pressure reading, was also associated with a 10% increase in risk of death.
These associations existed even after taking into account participants’ cardiovascular risk and blood pressure treatment. Researchers also note that associations were strongest in young patients, suggesting that young adults are more sensitive to changes in blood pressure.
According to authors, findings confirm the increased risk associated with fluctuation in blood pressure. They also highlight the importance of keeping blood pressure consistent, especially in patients with hypertension.
Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease, which affects an estimated one in three American adults. Unfortunately, only half of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control. Uncontrolled blood pressure—which can mean consistently high blood pressure or even fluctuating blood pressure levels—can be risky for patients with hypertension.
Findings suggest that all patients with hypertension should carefully monitor their blood pressure levels to ensure that their blood pressure is both low and consistent between readings.
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.