UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have discovered that high systolic blood pressure detected early in young adults is more dire than previously suggested. While most practitioners have not diagnosed it as an issue, UT Southwestern reported the problem may be linked to an increased risk of stroke and kidney and brain damage.
The condition, called isolated systolic hypertension, occurs when blood pressure exceeds 140, while diastolic blood pressure remains normal under 80. This is suspected to be attributed to the stiffening of the aortic artery in the heart. To uncover more information, UT Southwestern conducted the largest study in the U.S., analyzing younger ISH patients. Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin, author of the study and director of UT Southwestern’s hypertension program, says “the common approach of ignoring the higher levels in younger adults may be wrong.”
Currently, the condition is treated mostly in older patients since physicians have reportedly abstained prescribing drugs to younger demographics, thinking the higher systolic reading was “an anomaly related to youth that would self-correct.” According to UT Southwestern, the new findings are significant since they show “the incidence of isolated systolic hypertension in Americans ages 18 to 39 more than doubled over about a decade in the late ’80s and ’90s, and is now estimated to be around 5 percent in that population.” These numbers are also suspected to be related to the increasing rates of obesity in the country.
UT Southwestern researchers found the threat of aortic stiffness in youths is a visible problem. After examining more than 2,000 participants heart sonograms in the Dallas Heart Study, a population-based study of more than 6,000 patients in Dallas County, they found the proximal aorta was more tense in those with ISH.
Vongpatanasin says doctors should consider treating patients sooner rather than later. “I’m concerned [for those] having more brain damage and kidney damage,” he said in a statement. “This condition is not going to get better. It’s going to get worse.”
The study plans to continue research to determine whether blood pressure in the young adults with ISH will continue to be elevated, causing damage to the brain, heart, and kidneys over time.