A new study published in Annals of Internal Medicine finds that prehypertension—systolic blood pressure 120 to 139 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure 80 to 89 mmHg— during young adulthood is common and associated with coronary atherosclerosis.
Researches analyzed blood pressure measurements of 3,560 adults aged 18 to 30 over the course of 20 years and found that nearly 20 percent of the study participants had developed prehypertension before the age of 35. Although blood pressure levels between 120/80 and 139/89 are below the cutoff for hypertension, the young adults with prehypertension were more likely than those with lower blood pressure to have coronary calcium later in their lives. Coronary calcium is a marker of atherosclerosis and a predictor of future heart attacks and strokes.
Prehypertension was most common in young adults who were black, male, overweight, and of low socioeconomic status. Participants with low annual income (less than $25,000) and no college education were about twice as likely to have had early prehypertension as were participants with postgraduate education and an annual income greater than $100,000. Prehypertension before the age of 35 also was associated with having diabetes, low HDL cholesterol levels, and higher exposure to blood pressure elevation later in life.
Annals of Internal Medicine (www.annals.org) is one of the most widely cited peer-reviewed medical journals in the world. The journal has been published for 80 years and accepts only 7 percent of the original research studies submitted for publication. Annals of Internal Medicine is published by the American College of Physicians, the nation’s largest medical specialty society.