Prehypertension Increases Risk of Stroke

Blood Pressure CuffHigh blood pressure, or hypertension, is a known risk factor for stroke. Now new research published in the journal Neurology suggests that patients with prehypertension – higher than normal but not high blood pressure – may also have an increased risk of stroke compared to patients with normal blood pressure.

States lead study author Dr. Yuli Huang, cardiologist and researcher at the Nanfang Hospital of the Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, “Even low-range prehypertension, which is defined as ‘normal blood pressure’ in some hypertension guidelines, could increase the risk of stroke significantly.”

Prehypertension refers to slightly elevated blood pressure. Prehypertension is a systolic pressure from 120 to 139 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or a diastolic pressure from 80 to 89 mm Hg. Normal blood pressure falls between 120 systolic and 80 diastolic. High blood pressure is a systolic pressure over 140 or a diastolic pressure over 90.

Untreated prehypertension often develops into hypertension. This condition can increase the risk of other heart problems such as AFib, which is a condition that causes irregular heart beats and increases the chances of blood clots. Without a doubt, it puts people at an increased risk of having strokes. Treatments like the watchman procedure can be done for those with AFib to prevent the occurrence of strokes, but this is only if the problem cannot be first remedied by lifestyle changes.

For the present study, the researchers analyzed all existing research on the risk of stroke among individuals with prehypertension. The analysis included 19 studies involving more than 760,000 participants.

According to the analysis, patients with prehypertension were 66 percent more likely to experience a stroke than patients with normal blood pressure. Additionally, 20 percent of the strokes that occurred in the study population occurred in individuals with slightly elevated blood pressure.

The findings remained the same even after the researchers adjusted for compounding factors that also increase the risk of stroke such as smoking, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

The researchers additionally divided the patients with prehypertension into two groups: a “high” group in which blood pressure measured over 130/85 mmHg and a “low” group in which blood pressure measured under 130/85 mmHg but above normal.

Patients in the high group were 95 percent more likely to experience a stroke than individuals with normal blood pressure. Patients in the low group were 44 percent more likely to experience a stroke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three adults in the United States have slightly elevated blood pressure. States Dr. Dingli Xu of Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China on the importance of the present findings:

“These findings, if confirmed, have important takeaways for the public. 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.”

Although hypertension is often treated with medication, the researchers advise against drugs for treating prehypertension because not enough research has been performed to determine the safety and effectiveness of medication on slightly elevated blood pressure. Instead, individuals with prehypertension can make diet and lifestyle changes to bring their blood pressure back down to normal. Maintaining a healthy weight is especially important for maintaining healthy blood pressure.


Patients with even slightly high blood pressure ‘at increased risk of stroke’:
Slightly higher blood pressure linked to stroke risk:

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