Changes in blood pressure can increase risk of heart disease

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The website ‘health24‘ reported that a recent study has shown that changes in blood pressure can increase the risk of heart disease.

Readers of our site will very clearly know that high blood pressure is a well recognised risk factor in the development of heart disease. Strict control of blood pressure is essential through diet, lifestyle changes and through medication.

Blood pressure can vary throughout the day in people who do not suffer from high blood pressure. This can be normal. However, large variations may occur in the blood pressure of people with underlying hypertension. This is especially seen in those who do not take their medication on time or in those who struggle with high levels of stress.

As a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease, it is important that blood pressure levels remain under control at all times.

Variability and risk

The study showed that in those patients who had a variability of around 15 mmHg in their blood pressure, the risk of heart disease increased by 30% and that of stroke by 46%. These numbers are clearly staggering.

However, this variation does not appear to cause heart disease and stroke; it only increases the risk of it. In other words, there is no direct ’cause and effect’ relationship between the two.

It is not uncommon for patients to have a high blood pressure when they visit their doctor. This variability has also been linked to heart disease in certain studies. Increased stress levels over a period of time can lead to variable blood pressure readings, which ultimately culminate in sustained hypertension.

White coat hypertension is a condition where blood pressure levels rise as soon as the individual steps into a doctor’s clinic or hospital. Now considered a misnomer (doctors rarely wear white coats and it seems to be the surroundings that trigger the high blood pressure rather than the doctor’s attire), this condition is also believed to lead to sustained hypertension over a period of time.

The current guidelines recommend maintaining blood pressure values at different levels in different age groups. As a general rule, in patients over 65, the ideal blood pressure is around 150/90 mmHg and those below the ideal value is 140/90, especially when on treatment.

However, there still remains an open question. It is not yet 100% proven that stopping these variations can help reduce risk. Much needs to be learned about that still.

What you can do

If you suffer from variable blood pressure, then speak to your doctor on how you can normalise it. Taking medication on time can help. Reduce your salt intake significantly. Exercise regularly. Try rest and relaxation therapies. Reduce your stress levels as much as you can.

Dr Vivek Baliga B
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