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

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

Published: May, 2014

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.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »