Healthy heart habits may lower high blood pressure risk years later

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In a new study, researchers found that better heart health, as measured by the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 (LS7) scale, was linked to a much lower risk of developing high blood pressure.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

High blood pressure is among the most common conditions in the U.S., and it contributes to the greatest burden of disability and the largest reduction in healthy life expectancy among any disease.

Even though high blood pressure causes so much death and disability, scientists don’t know the root cause of it.”

The study included 2,930 Black and white adults, ages 45 and older.

Participants with high blood pressure, defined as >=130/80 mm Hg, were excluded, leaving only those who were free from hypertension at the start of the study.

Researchers examined the association of high and low LS7 scores with the risk of developing high blood pressure within 10 years.

The LS7 is a measure of a person’s overall cardiovascular health.

The tool incorporates seven known lifestyle behaviors and health risk factors—body mass index; diet; smoking; physical activity; and blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels—into a single metric to estimate cardiovascular risk.

The highest possible LS7 score is 14, and there are three rankings for cardiovascular health: 10 to 14 is ideal; 5 to 9 is average, and 0 to 4 is poor.

Researchers found among 2,930 participants without high blood pressure, the median LS7 total score was in the “average category” (9 points).

Over about a 9-year follow-up, 42{554322552816a46baa129cc1ab31b2aae22be5e23f407658ace83a643d80b0e9} of participants developed high blood pressure.

The incidence in Black adults was 52{554322552816a46baa129cc1ab31b2aae22be5e23f407658ace83a643d80b0e9} in women and 50{554322552816a46baa129cc1ab31b2aae22be5e23f407658ace83a643d80b0e9} in men; and among white adults, 37{554322552816a46baa129cc1ab31b2aae22be5e23f407658ace83a643d80b0e9} of women and 42{554322552816a46baa129cc1ab31b2aae22be5e23f407658ace83a643d80b0e9} of men developed high blood pressure.

Each one-point higher LS7 score correlated with a 6{554322552816a46baa129cc1ab31b2aae22be5e23f407658ace83a643d80b0e9} lower risk of high blood pressure. No significant difference was seen by race or sex.

The team says among middle-aged people without hypertension, there is still a huge benefit to seeking optimal cardiovascular health.

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.

One author of the study is Timothy B. Plante, M.D., M.H.S.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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