Pre-hypertensive middle-aged men may have more to worry about than developing full-blown high blood pressure. They also are at an increased risk for a heart arrhythmia.
Having blood pressure in the upper end of the “normal” blood pressure range during their 40s and 50s appears to to increase the likelihood men will develop a common heart arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation later in life.
Hypertension is considered a risk factor for atrial fibrillation, but not much has been understood about the health consequences of having blood pressure in the pre-hypertensive range.
Dr. Irene Grundvold, lead author of the study and consultant cardiologist in the cardiology department at Oslo University Hospital in Norway, noted that previous research had found that women in the upper end of the normal blood pressure range were at an increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
Researchers had set out to determine whether the same was true for men.
During the 35-year study, researchers followed more than 2,000 Norwegian men between the ages of 40 and 59 years old. Researchers took blood pressure measurements at the start of the study and recorded health events, including atrial fibrillation.
After seven years, a follow-up survey was conducted after which only healthy participants were considered, reducing the number of participants to 1,423. During follow up, 270 men, about 13 percent, developed atrial fibrillation. On average it was developed about 20 years later.
Men with systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher at the beginning of the study had a 60 percent greater risk of developing atrial fibrillation versus men with a top number reading below 128 mmHg.
In addition, men with diastolic blood pressure of 80 mm Hg or higher at the start of the study had a 79 percent increased risk of developing the heart arrhythmia, compared with men with a bottom number blood pressure reading that was below 80 mm Hg.
The study was recently published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.
By: Deanna Morey
Citation: American Heart Association, “Middle-aged men with upper-normal blood pressure at risk for AF”