Individuals with blood pressure even moderately higher than the optimal 120/80 mmHg may face a higher risk of stroke, according to a new meta-analysis.
As published March 12 on the website of the journal Neurology, researchers examined all of the available research on the risk of developing stroke in people with prehypertension, or blood pressure higher than optimal but lower than the threshold of 140/90 for a diagnosis of hypertension.
A total of 19 prospective cohort studies with more than 760,000 participants were included in the analysis, and participants were followed for time periods ranging from four to 36 years. Between 25% and 54% of study participants had prehypertension.
The analysis found that people with prehypertension were 66% more likely to develop a stroke than people who had normal blood pressure. The results were the same after researchers adjusted for other factors that could increase the risk of stroke, such as high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. The researchers determined that nearly 20% of strokes in the study population were due to prehypertension.
The analysis also divided people with prehypertension into high and low groups, with blood pressure over 130/85 designated as the high range. Those in the high range had a greater risk of stroke than those in the low range: Those in the high range were 95% more likely to develop a stroke than those with normal blood pressure, while those in the low range were 44% more likely.
These findings, if confirmed, have important takeaways for the public, study author Dingli Xu, MD, of Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, said in a news release. Considering the high proportion of the population who have higher-than-normal blood pressure, successful treatment of this condition could prevent many strokes and make a major difference in public health.
Blood pressure medication is not recommended for people with prehypertension, Xu noted, in part because not enough research has been done on its safety and effectiveness in that circumstance. Prehypertension should be managed with changes in diet and exercise to help reduce the risk of stroke, Xu said. More research should be done on using blood pressure drugs for people with prehypertension.
Neurology is the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Study abstract: http://bit.ly/1oNotSN