High blood pressure affects young, healthy medical students

September 06, 2019

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 6, 2019 -- Almost two-thirds of medical students had above-normal blood pressure and were more than twice as likely to experience clinically high blood pressure compared to the general public, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association's Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions.

High blood pressure is typically linked with older age, being overweight, smoking and/or being in general poor health. However, this study found that many first- and second-year medical students had abnormal blood pressure levels of which they were unaware, potentially putting them on a path for heart health risks at a younger age. Researchers at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, surveyed 106 male and 105 female medical students whose ages ranged between 21 and 37, with the average age being 25.8 years. The students also provided information about tobacco use, alcohol consumption, diet, exercise habits, mental health, social support and past medical history. Their blood pressure and waistlines were measured for this study.

The study results revealed that: The researchers said that it's unclear why young men would be significantly more prone to high blood pressure than women, however, the stresses of a demanding medical education in addition to anxiety, lack of exercise, lack of sleep and/or poor diet may be contributing factors.

"Elevated blood pressure should not be something that we only associate with being older," said lead study author Jacek Bednarz, Jr., a third-year medical student at Lincoln Memorial University. "Young people lack awareness about their own blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure regularly checked is a simple way to protect one's health."

According to the American Heart Association's "Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2019 Update," an estimated 103 million Americans--or about half of all U.S. adults--have high blood pressure, a major public health threat that accounted for 11% of deaths from 2005 to 2015. During the same time period, the number of deaths due to high blood pressure rose by almost 38%.

"While this is a small study, it is interesting. As one of the most common and dangerous risk factors for heart disease and stroke, all people, even those who are young and believed to be in good health, should have their blood pressure checked routinely," said the American Heart Association Chief Science and Medical Officer Mariell Jessup, M.D., FAHA.

Data compiled by the American Heart Association shows approximately 80% of all cardiovascular disease can be prevented by controlling high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, along with adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors such as not smoking. Positive lifestyle behaviors such as eating healthy foods, regularly engaging in physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight could have the most impact since they contribute to multiple health conditions.

Additional studies are needed to assess the prevalence and heightened risk of high blood pressure in medical students, and the risk factors that lead to it.
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Co-authors are Daniel W. Mok, M.S.; Jan D. Zieren, D.O., M.P.H.; Theresa M. Ferguson, B.A.; Jordan M. Glass, M.S.; Kelcie L. Smith, B.S.; and Brian Yonish, B.S.

Author disclosures are in the abstract. This study was funded by the authors.

Additional Resources:

Available multimedia is on the right column of the release link https://newsroom.heart.org/news/high-blood-pressure-affects-young-healthy-medical-students?preview=f0462763ba3f77c11c3d5988372a8cb1

Statements and conclusions of study authors that are presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect Association policy or position. The Association makes no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability. The Association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific Association programs and events. The Association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at https://www.heart.org/en/about-us/aha-financial-information.

About the American Heart Association


The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public's health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

American Heart Association

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