Lifetime risk of hypertension.





Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Hypertension
Professional Data: Hypertension


Blood pressure is created when the heart beats, propelling blood throughout the body. Blood pressure occurs in two distinct phases, corresponding to the contraction and relaxation of the heart muscle. When the heart contracts, it ejects a certain volume of blood out from its right side into the body's largest artery, the aorta. This initial thrust causes "systolic" blood pressure, which is the upper number of your blood pressure reading. As the heart relaxes, the blood presses against the walls of the arteries as it circulates, causing "diastolic" blood pressure, which is the lower number in your reading. Systolic blood pressure is a measure of the heart's blood output, while diastolic is determined by the resistance of arteries in the extremities to the flow of blood.

Hypertension has many possible causes. Hypertension that results from another disease is called "secondary hypertension." Fewer than 5 percent of people who suffer from hypertension have secondary hypertension, and in the majority of those, kidney disease in the cause. Other disorders known elevate blood pressure include thyroid disorders and Cushing's disease, which is a disorder of the adrenal glands. Certain medications— nervous system stimulants, synthetic estrogen, and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), to name a few— sometimes contribute to hypertension.

In a recent publication of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a 22-year study investigated the lifetime risk of developing hypertension in older Americans. This cohort study involved 1,298 individuals who were between the ages of 55 and 65 in the year 1976. The researchers defined hypertension as blood pressure 140/90 mm Hg or higher. The lifetime risk of acquiring hypertension was 90% in both 55 and 65 years old participants. Extremely high blood pressure was substantially lower in both men and women compared to a previously conducted study. Concluding, the researchers stated, "The residual lifetime risk for hypertension for middle-aged and elderly individuals is 90%, indicating a huge public health burden. Although the decline in lifetime risk for stage 2 high blood pressure or higher represents a major achievement, efforts should be directed at the primary prevention of hypertension."1


1. Vasan RS. Residual Lifetime Risk for Developing Hypertension in Middle-aged Women and Men. JAMA. Feb 2002;287:1003-1010.