1 in 5 young adults may have high blood pressure

Young people and hypertension -  news from The Chiropractic JournalYoung adulthood is supposed to be a generally healthy and carefree time of life. Yet, according to a new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, that’s not the reality today. In fact, studies are indicating that as many as one fifth of all young adults in their 20s and early 30s have elevated blood pressure.

Researchers analyzed data on more than 14,000 men and women between the ages of 24 and 32 in 2008 from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health – known as Add Health – funded by the National Institutes of Health. They found 19% had hypertension, which has been directly linked to poor diet and stress.

Although hypertension can have serious long-term effects, only about half of the participants with elevated blood pressure had been alerted to that fact by their health care provider.

“The findings are significant because they indicate that many young adults are at risk of developing heart disease, but are unaware that they have hypertension,” said Quynh Nguyen, a doctoral student at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and the study’s lead author. Hypertension is a strong risk factor for stroke and coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death for adults in the U.S.

The findings were published in the journal Epidemiology.

Dr. Kathleen Harris, the study’s co-author, stated that the high rate of hypertension among the Add Health study participants was surprising. Another widely cited and reputable study – the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES – reported a much lower rate of hypertension (4%) for a similar age group around the same time period (2007-2008). Both studies use the same definition of hypertension: a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) or more.

“Our respective findings may differ, but the message is clear,” said Dr. Harris. “Young adults and the medical professionals they visit shouldn’t assume they’re not old enough to have high blood pressure. This is a condition that leads to chronic illness, premature death and costly medical treatment.

“Our results show that the processes that trigger these problems begin early in life, but they are preventable,” she emphasized, “so it’s important to check for hypertension now and head it off at the pass, in order to avoid these health and societal costs later on.”

Several research studies have shown that chiropractic may be effective in controlling or reducing high blood pressure. An article published in the Journal of Human Hypertension, found that restoration of Atlas alignment is associated with marked and sustained reductions in blood pressure. In fact, the result was about the same as using a common two-drug combination therapy, but with no adverse effects.

SOURCES: “Discordance in National Estimates of Hypertension Among Young Adults” Epidemiology: July 2011 – Volume 22 – Issue 4 – pp 532-541 Abstract

“Atlas vertebra realignment and achievement of arterial pressure goal in hypertensive patients: a pilot study” Journal of Human Hypertension (2007) Abstract