Blood pressure is the amount of force required for the heart to circulate blood through the body. Systolic blood pressure represents the maximal blood pressure during systole, and diastolic blood pressure the minimum pressure at the end of ventricular diastole. Arterial blood pressure can be defined hemodynamically as the product of cardiac output and total peripheral resistance. Cardiac output is the main determinant of systolic pressure while peripheral resistance largely determines the level of diastolic pressure. Hypertension is a cardiovascular disease characterized by elevation of blood pressure above arbitrary values considered normal for people of similar racial and environmental background.
Cardiovascular disease or heart disease is a class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels (arteries and veins). There are several risk factors for cardiovascular disease that are essentially immutable. These are older age, male gender, and a family history of CVD. Additionally, three major risk factors identified include cigarette smoking, dyslipidemia (high cholesterol), and hypertension. Other identified factors associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease include physical inactivity, sleep problems, diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, excessive intake of alcohol, thrombotic and fibrinolytic factors, elevated homocysteine levels, certain infections and inflammation, exogenously administered estrogens and androgens, certain psychosocial factors, increased fasting glucose and frequency of migraines. The synergism of the presence of multiple risk factors must also be considered.
Researchers examined how changes in blood pressure during middle age affect lifetime risk for CVD, coronary heart disease, and stroke using data from 7 diverse US cohort studies involving 61,585 participants. The results of their study were published in the journal Circulation. They found people who maintained or reduced their blood pressure to normal levels by age 55 had the lowest lifetime risk for CVD. In contrast, those who had already developed high blood pressure by age 55 had a higher lifetime risk. Almost 70 percent of all men who developed high blood pressure in middle age would experience a CVD event by 85 and women who developed high blood pressure by middle age had a 49 percent higher lifetime risk for CVD than those who have maintained normal blood pressure up to age 55. These results suggest maintaining a healthy diet, combined with exercise and weight control, could help reduce blood pressure levels and, consequently, reduce the risk for CVD later in life.1
1 Allen N, Berry JD, Ning H, et al. Impact of blood pressure and blood pressure change during middle age on the remaining lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease: the cardiovascular lifetime risk pooling project. Circulation. Jan2012;125(1):37-44.