Nicknamed the “silent” killer, high blood pressure is perhaps none more so than among young adults, new data suggest.
Compared to middle-aged and older adults, the rates of awareness, treatment and control of high blood pressure is much lower in young adults, according to the study published Monday in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension.
Among the 6.7 million young adults with high blood pressure in 2013-2014, only half received treatment and just 40 percent got their blood pressure under control.
“While hypertension awareness, treatment and control have improved overall since the early 2000s, all three remain worse in young adults—those aged 18-39,” said the study’s senior author Andrew Moran, M.D., an assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
Young men particularly lag behind. Compared to young women, they are less aware of high blood pressure and less likely to be treated. Young men are also much less likely to have the condition under control—only a third, compared with more than half of young women.
“Our study identified shortfalls in high blood pressure screening and management among young adults and especially young adult males,” said the study’s lead author Yiyi Zhang, an associate research scientist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
Researchers noted young women are more likely to have their blood pressure checked regularly because of more frequent health-care visits, such as gynecological exams or prenatal care.
“The first step for young adults is to have their blood pressure measured, whether in a doctor’s office, pharmacy or other place in their community,” Zhang said. “Young adults with consistently high blood pressure need a link to clinical care to verify the diagnosis and receive regular monitoring and possibly treatment.”
High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.
The study was based on 1999-2014 data taken from more than 41,000 people who participated in eight national health surveys examining the prevalence and management of high blood pressure among adults.
Nearly three-quarters of young adults who had high blood pressure were obese compared with 57 percent of middle-aged adults and 42 percent of older adults, suggesting that young adults with high blood pressure are more than twice as likely to be obese.