Want to fend off high blood pressure? New research adds to the pile of evidence showing that living healthy can help you avoid hypertension.
The study included nearly 3,000 Black and white U.S. adults, aged 45 and older, who didn’t have high blood pressure at the start of the study.
The participants’ heart health was assessed with the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 tool, which measures seven risk factors: body mass index, diet, smoking, physical activity, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
A score of 10 to 14 is ideal; 5 to 9 is average, and 0 to 4 is poor. The median score among the participants was 9.
Over about nine years of follow-up, 42% of participants developed high blood pressure. The rates among Black adults were 52% in women and 50% in men. Among white adults the rates were 37% in women and 42% in men.
Each 1-point higher score was associated with a 6% lower risk of high blood pressure, without significant difference by race or sex, according to the study published Sept. 15 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“High blood pressure is among the most common conditions in the U.S., and it contributes to the greatest burden of disability and largest reduction in healthy life expectancy among any disease,” said lead author Dr. Timothy Plante, an assistant professor in the College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.
“Even though high blood pressure causes so much death and disability, we don’t know the root cause of it,” he noted in a journal news release.
“Among middle-aged people without hypertension, there is still a huge benefit to seeking optimal cardiovascular health,” Plante said. “These findings support the current clinical practice recommendations of lifestyle modifications such as eating better, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight to all people, including those without high blood pressure.”
The findings are especially important for Black Americans, who have the highest rate of high blood pressure of any group in the world, and develop it at a younger age with greater severity, the researchers added.