Patients with even slightly high blood pressure ‘at increased risk of stroke’

After heart disease and cancer, strokes are statistically the third cause of death in the USA. And high blood pressure increases the risk of stroke.

But now a research team, including Dr. Dingli Xu of Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, has shown that even modest increases in blood pressure heighten risk (Neurology).

The meta-study involved 19 studies and more than 760,000 participants. Subjects were followed for between 4 and 36 years, and 25-54% of them had ‘prehypertension’.

Individuals with prehypertension were 66% more likely to have a stroke than those who had normal blood pressure, and almost 20% of strokes that occurred in the study population were in those with prehypertension.

Researchers adjusted for smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol – factors that can also increase risk.

Worse, dividing these ‘slightly’ higher blood pressure group into two levels showed the higher group with a 95% increased risk, and the lower group with 44% increased risk of stroke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 1 in 3 American adults have prehypertension.

Harvard Medical School produced several studies a few years ago showing a colourful Mediterranean diet could reduce the risk of high blood pressure and strokes.

And Medical News today reported in January 2014 on a study suggesting that following a vegetarian diet may help lower blood pressure.

Exercise can also help. – See our article on ‘How to lower blood pressure naturally’.