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We’ve long known that high blood pressure is a primary risk factor for stroke, but new research suggests that blood pressure on the high end of normal can be a threat, too. This condition, called pre-hypertension, is diagnosed when the top blood pressure number (systolic) is between 120 and 139 mmHg and the low number (diastolic) between 80 and 89 mmHg.
The new information follows a review of 12 studies that included data on more than 518,000 participants in the United States, Japan, China and India taken from studies that lasted from 2.7 to 32 years. The researchers, from the University of California, San Diego, found that people with pre-hypertension were 55 percent more likely to have a stroke compared to individuals whose blood pressure was normal.
The review also revealed that people younger than 65 with pre-hypertension had a stroke risk that was 68 percent higher than normal, and that regardless of age those whose blood pressure was in the range of 130 to 139 had a stroke risk 79 percent higher than normal. In the United States, one-third of adults have pre-hypertension. The study was published online on September 28 in Neurology.
We’ve known for some time that prehypertension can raise the risk of cardiovascular disease. Although the studies this report was based on encompassed a lot of people, it was only an analysis, not a study, and the authors appropriately noted that their findings must be confirmed before deciding upon the best approach to treatment.
In the meantime, if your blood pressure has been edging up, lifestyle changes – losing weight, getting more exercise, giving up smoking, learning to relax and cutting back on salt, alcohol and caffeine – may help bring it down.