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

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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’.