Harvard Women's Health Watch

Any elevated blood pressure-no matter how slight-might increase stroke risk

Any elevated blood pressure—no matter how slight—might increase stroke risk

We know that having high blood pressure increases our risk for strokes, but what about those of us with prehypertension—a blood pressure reading above 120/80 mm Hg, but below the 140/90 mm Hg threshold that qualifies as high blood pressure? A study in the March 12, 2014, online issue of Neurology found that anyone with a reading of over 120/80 mm Hg needs to be concerned about stroke risk. When researchers analyzed 19 studies of more than 760,000 people with prehypertension, they discovered that people with prehypertension were 66% more likely to have a stroke than those with normal blood pressure, even after adjusting for factors that can increase the odds of having a stroke, like high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking. People who were in the higher part of the prehypertension range (130/85 to 139/89) faced a greater stroke risk than those in the lower part of the range (120/80 to 129/84). Although blood pressure medicines aren't recommended for people with prehypertension, diet and exercise can help bring down elevated numbers. "Considering the high proportion of the population who have higher-than-normal blood pressure, successful treatment of this condition could prevent many strokes and make a major difference in public health," study author Dr. Dingli Xu of Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, said in a statement.

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