A tipping point for developing high blood pressure?

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Although conventional wisdom suggests blood pressure rises gradually as people age, that isn't true for everyone, according to new research. However, a systolic blood pressure (the top number in a reading) that regularly goes above 120 to 125 mm Hg may signal impending high blood pressure, regardless of a person's age.

The study included data from 1,252 of the original participants of the Framingham Heart Study, who had their blood pressure measured roughly every two years between 1948 and 2005. Researchers then categorized the participants based on the age at which they received a diagnosis of high blood pressure (in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, or never). They defined high blood pressure by the standard at the time: equal to or over 140/90 mm Hg.

The trajectory for developing high blood pressure was similar for all the different age groups. Their readings were generally stable until they approached the range of 120 to 125 mm Hg systolic, above which their blood pressure rose rapidly and into the elevated range. The findings, published online March 21, 2018, by JAMA Cardiology, underscore the importance of keeping close tabs on your blood pressure. They also jibe with recently updated guidelines that lowered the definition of high systolic blood pressure to 130 mm Hg.