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.