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High Blood Pressure May Improve Well-Being for Teens

Update Date: May 03, 2013 02:12 PM EDT

It is well-known that high blood pressure, which can go undiagnosed for years starting from adolescence, is bad for your health. One of the most common chronic conditions, it can lead to an elevated risk of other illnesses and death. However, in a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Göttingen in Germany found that high blood pressure may have some positive health benefits in teenagers. In fact, the study found that teenagers with high blood pressure have a higher quality of life than teenagers whose blood pressure is normal.

The study was conducted by looking at data from 7,700 teenagers in a German study. In total, 10.7 percent of teenagers had high blood pressure, a number that was twice as high as researchers expected. Unsurprisingly, adolescents who had high blood pressure were more likely to be obese and to be more sedentary, spending more time than their peers playing video games and watching television. They were also more likely to engage in other risky behaviors, like drinking alcohol. All of those correlations were ones that scientists expected though.

What they did not expect to see was that children with high blood pressure were more likely to be better off in many ways. They were more academically successful and their quality of life was better than their peers with normal blood pressure, receiving higher scores in the arenas of family life, self-esteem and overall well-being. They were also less likely to have problems with hyperactivity. Those links remained true even when researchers adjusted for a number of other factors. Researchers corroborated their data with parental ratings, which found that teens with high blood pressure were less likely to have conduct issues, emotional problems or other concerns.

Researchers have a number of theories as to why that link has appeared. Teens who perform better academically may have more stress, elevating their blood pressure. Teens who repress their negative emotions may report greater psychological well-being, even if they have higher blood pressure. In addition, they believe that high blood pressure may dampen the ability to recognize negative emotions.

Regardless, other studies seem to back this finding up. Other studies in adults have found that those who have high blood pressure but who do not know it report greater amounts of well-being. Once they are aware of their high blood pressure, though, that gap disappears.

The study was published in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine.

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