Middle-aged adults with healthy heart habits may lower high blood pressure risk years later

September 16, 2020

DALLAS, Sept. 16, 2020 -- Better heart health, as measured by the American Heart Association's Life's Simple 7 (LS7) scale, was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) in middle-aged, Black and white adults, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access journal of the American Heart Association.

"High blood pressure is among the most common conditions in the U.S., and it contributes to the greatest burden of disability and largest reduction in healthy life expectancy among any disease," said Timothy B. Plante, M.D., M.H.S., lead study author and assistant professor in the department of medicine at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington. "Even though high blood pressure causes so much death and disability, we don't know the root cause of it."

The study included 2,930 Black and white adults, ages 45 and older, from the REasons for Geographic and Racial Disparities in Stroke (REGARDS) study, who were selected using mail and telephone outreach from 2003-2007 and a second visit completed in 2013-2016. Participants with high blood pressure, defined as ?130/80 mm Hg, were excluded, leaving only those who were free from hypertension at the start of the study. Researchers examined the association of high and low LS7 scores with the risk of developing high blood pressure within 10 years.

The LS7 is a measure of a person's overall cardiovascular health. The tool incorporates seven known lifestyle behaviors and health risk factors -- body mass index; diet; smoking; physical activity; and blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels -- into a single metric to estimate cardiovascular risk. The highest possible LS7 score is 14, and there are three rankings for cardiovascular health: 10 to 14 is ideal; 5 to 9 is average; and 0 to 4 is poor.

Researchers found:

Among 2,930 participants without high blood pressure (20% Black adults, 80% white adults), the median LS7 total score was in the "average category" (9 points).

Over about a 9-year follow-up, 42% of participants developed high blood pressure. The incidence in Black adults was 52% in women and 50% in men; and among white adults, 37% of women and 42% of men developed high blood pressure. Each one-point higher LS7 score correlated with a 6% lower risk of high blood pressure. (This result was a graded response that occurred continuously across the entire LS7 spectrum - from poor to ideal LS7 scores.) No significant difference was seen by race or sex.

The same results were produced in two separate analyses: one using the 2017 ACC/AHA updated guideline for high blood pressure of ?130/80 mm Hg, and the other using the previous high blood pressure criteria of ?140/90 mm Hg.

"Among middle-aged people without hypertension, there is still a huge benefit to seeking optimal cardiovascular health," Plante said. "These findings support the current clinical practice recommendations of lifestyle modifications such as eating better, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight to all people, including those without high blood pressure."

The finding is especially important for Black Americans, who have the highest rate of high blood pressure among any group in the world and develop the condition at a younger age and with more severity.

"Focusing on a patient-centered approach can potentially optimize cardiovascular health among Black and white patients alike," Plante said. "We recommend tailoring step-wise health improvement and lifestyle changes for patients. For example, patients might not be receptive to quitting smoking today; however, if they are receptive to getting more exercise today, that would be a one-point LS7 score improvement."

The study is limited in that it only points to an association between LS7 scores and risk of developing high blood pressure. The next step is to conduct a randomized trial to confirm improving LS7 scores can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

"It's encouraging to see that the benefits of greater cardiovascular health, as measured by Life's Simple 7, extend to lower rates of hypertension in adults. This suggests that optimizing the behavioral risk factors central to Life's Simple 7 could be an important way for patients to manage their risk factors," said Donald Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., FAHA, chair of the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University, AHA President-elect and part of the group that developed the Life's Simple 7 scale and criteria. "If we can reach more people in younger and middle age with this type of lifestyle assessment, we could be looking at strong improvements in health overall."
-end-
Co-authors are Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc.; Insu Koh, Ph.D.; George Howard, DrPh.; Virginia Howard, Ph.D.; Suzanne E. Judd, Ph.D.; Neil A. Zakai, M.D., M.Sc.; John N. Booth, III, Ph.D.; Monika Safford, M.D.; and Paul Muntner, Ph.D. The authors' disclosures are listed in the manuscript.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health funded the study.

Additional Resources:

Available multimedia is on right column of release link - https://newsroom.heart.org/news/middle-aged-adults-with-healthy-heart-habits-may-lower-high-blood-pressure-risk-years-later?preview=2b7e315105fd44972a46ef70cf2531e1

After Sept. 16, view the manuscript online.

Healthy Living

High Blood Pressure

New digital tools help people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol make meaningful behavior change

My Life Check | Life's Simple 7

Seven steps to keep your brain healthy from childhood to old age

Follow AHA/ASA news on Twitter @HeartNews

Follow news from the Journal of the American Heart Association @JAHA_AHA

Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the Association's policy or position. The Association makes no representation or guarantee 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 and health insurance providers 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

Related Blood Pressure Articles from Brightsurf:

Children who take steroids at increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, blood clots
Children who take oral steroids to treat asthma or autoimmune diseases have an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and blood clots, according to Rutgers researchers.

High blood pressure treatment linked to less risk for drop in blood pressure upon standing
Treatment to lower blood pressure did not increase and may decrease the risk of extreme drops in blood pressure upon standing from a sitting position.

Changes in blood pressure control over 2 decades among US adults with high blood pressure
National survey data were used to examine how blood pressure control changed overall among U.S. adults with high blood pressure between 1999-2000 and 2017-2018 and by age, race, insurance type and access to health care.

Transient increase in blood pressure promotes some blood vessel growth
Blood vessels are the body's transportation system, carrying oxygen and nutrients to cells and whisking away waste.

Effect of reducing blood pressure medications on blood pressure control in older adults
Whether the amount of blood pressure medications taken by older adults could be reduced safely and without a significant change in short-term blood pressure control was the objective of this randomized clinical trial that included 534 adults 80 and older.

Brain blood flow sensor discovery could aid treatments for high blood pressure & dementia
A study led by researchers at UCL has discovered the mechanism that allows the brain to monitor its own blood supply, a finding in rats which may help to find new treatments for human conditions including hypertension (high blood pressure) and dementia.

Here's something that will raise your blood pressure
The apelin receptor (APJ) has been presumed to play an important role in the contraction of blood vessels involved in blood pressure regulation.

New strategy for treating high blood pressure
The key to treating blood pressure might lie in people who are 'resistant' to developing high blood pressure even when they eat high salt diets, shows new research published today in Experimental Physiology.

Arm cuff blood pressure measurements may fall short for predicting heart disease risk in some people with resistant high blood pressure
A measurement of central blood pressure in people with difficult-to-treat high blood pressure could help reduce risk of heart disease better than traditional arm cuff readings for some patients, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions.

Heating pads may lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure when lying down
In people with supine hypertension due to autonomic failure, a condition that increases blood pressure when lying down, overnight heat therapy significantly decreased systolic blood pressure compared to a placebo.

Read More: Blood Pressure News and Blood Pressure Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.