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HEALTHLINE NEWS

High Blood Pressure Ignored in Young Adults, Teens

Untreated hypertension in younger people can cause artery stiffening, which can increase risk of stroke, as well as kidney and brain damage.

high blood pressure in teens

High blood pressure is nicknamed “the silent killer.”

Its silence often leads to health conditions in teens and young adults — and are ignored by doctors.

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However, leaving the disease untreated can have real consequences.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is common in the United States. It affects 1 in 3 adults, about 75 million people.

This high rate is often attributed to two major lifestyle factors: being overweight and an increasing lifespan.

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Some researchers have pointed out that the number of people who develop it could eventually be as high as 90 percent.

“It is actually more logical to be amazed if you never develop it,” wrote Dr. Naomi Fisher, director of hypertension services, and the hypertension specialty clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

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Read more: Get the facts on high blood pressure »

Nothing to ignore

High blood pressure is usually taken seriously by medical professionals.

However, despite how vigilant doctors are in treating the condition in middle-aged and older individuals, this isn’t always the case with younger people.

“Active individuals, like the young and athletes, are viewed as free of diseases such as hypertension,” stated one study in the journal Postgraduate Medicine.

“However, the increased prevalence of traditional risk factors in the young, including obesity, diabetes mellitus, and renal disease, increase the risk of developing hypertension in younger adults,” the study authors added.

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New research from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center affirms that position.

Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin, and her co-authors, recently conducted the largest study looking at a condition known as isolated systolic hypertension (ISH) in young adults.

They concluded that young people with this condition are at risk for future artery stiffening, which is linked to increased stroke risk, as well as damage to the kidneys and brain.

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High blood pressure in young adults, particularly ISH, is often regarded as an anomaly that will self-correct.

It’s even seen as a sign of a strong heart since it is sometimes found in high school athletes.

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Normal blood pressure readings should be 120 (systolic) / 80 (diastolic).

Hypertension is any reading of 140/90 or higher.

In the case of ISH, only the top (systolic) number is high, while the lower number is within a normal range.

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“Young people with elevated blood pressure — even those with only a high systolic number, but normal diastolic number — may have an abnormally stiff aorta, which should not be ignored,” Vongpatanasin told Healthline. “They should have close follow-up and talk with their primary care physicians to see if their condition needs to be treated.”

She urges that instead of ignoring these signs, they should be “treated sooner rather than later.”

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Read more: High blood pressure in young people linked to obesity epidemic »

Lifestyle changes can help

Hypertension is highly treatable through a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.

Modifying diet and exercise habits are two of the most effective ways to lower blood pressure.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week.

As far as diet is concerned, Vongpatanasin recommends meals rich in vegetables and fruits.

This condition is not going to get better. It’s going to get worse.
Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Minimizing salt intake is also important for maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

In an article for the Guardian, Professor Graham MacGregor, the chairman of the Blood Pressure Association, and professor of cardiovascular medicine at Barts and the London School of Medicine, wrote:

“We have seven or eight different types of evidence that all point to the role of salt, and I know that if I cut your salt intake by half it reduces blood pressure.”

Experts say leaving the condition untreated in young adults can no longer remain the standard of care.

“This condition is not going to get better. It’s going to get worse,” said Vongpatanasin.

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