A new study published in the journal Heart indicates that men with low stress resilience during youth are prone to approximately 40% increase in the risk of developing hypertension in later life. Of note, the combination of low stress resilience and high body mass index (BMI) triples the hypertension risk.
High blood pressure is a costly and large growing public health problem worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally, the overall hypertension prevalence in adults was around 40% in 2008, whereas the number of people with uncontrolled hypertension rose from 600 million in 1980 to nearly 1 billion in 2008.
However, the role of stress resilience – the individual’s ability to properly adapt to and handle stress – and how it can influence the risk of high blood pressure was not assessed previously.
In the Heart report, Casey Crump and colleagues from Stanford University, California, USA and the Lund University, Malmö, Sweden conducted a national cohort study of 1,547,182 military conscripts who entered into the Swedish army at 18 years of age.
The authors studied the Swedish Military Conscription Registry, between 1969 and 1997. Individuals underwent standardised psychological assessment by trained psychologists for stress resilience and were followed up for hypertension during the 1969–2012 period.
The researchers report that men with low resilience to stress at the age of 18 had an increased risk to develop hypertension in adulthood, which was independent of BMI at baseline, diabetes, family history of hypertension and socioeconomic factors.
Importantly, the authors found a positive additive interaction between stress resilience and BMI, where high BMI significantly magnified the risk of developing hypertension.
Thus, the study, although observational, suggests that the stress resilience-hypertension link may have an important long-term role in etiological pathways for hypertension. These pathways most likely are exaggerated in overweight individuals.
The study also suggests that psychological interventions and stress management during late adolescence may be useful to prevent the development of cardiovascular pathologies in later life.
Source: Heart, 2016 Feb 1. pii: heartjnl-2015-308597. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2015-308597. [Epub ahead of print] Read More: HeartJournal