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Slightly Elevated BP Tied to Increased Stroke Risk

Update Date: Mar 13, 2014 11:33 AM EDT

For years researchers have known that hypertension, or high blood pressure, raises one's risk of stroke. According to a new study, blood pressure levels that are slightly elevated might also be tied to increasing one's stroke risk. This study's findings stress the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and a good physical activity level.

"This meta-analysis confirms evidence from many studies, and I think it continues to warn physicians and the public that more vigorous control of blood pressure is important for reducing stroke risk," said Dr. Ralph Sacco, chairman of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, reported by WebMD. Sacco was not a part of the review. "The findings confirm that even mild to moderate levels of elevated blood pressure are important for determining stroke risk."

For this study the researchers examined data on 760,000 participants who were monitored for 36 years. They discovered that people who had blood pressure readings over the normal level of 120/80 mmHg had an increased risk of stroke. When the researchers focused on prehypertension levels, which are between 120/80 mmHg and 140/90 mmHg, they found that people with these levels were 66 percent more likely to suffer from a stroke than people with a normal blood pressure reading.

The researchers then examined people with different levels of prehypertension. For adults with a blood pressure of over 130/85 mmHg, their risk of future stroke increased by 95 percent in comparison to people with normal blood pressure. For people with blood pressure levels under 130/85 mmHg, their stroke risk was 44 percent higher than people with normal blood pressure. Overall, 20 percent of the strokes that occurred throughout the study were in patients with prehypertension.

"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 from Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China said according to CBS News.

The researchers stated that since blood pressure drugs are not prescribed for people with prehypertension, doctors should work with their at-risk patients in finding ways to reduce their blood pressure levels. Some ways of lowering blood pressure levels include exercise and healthy dieting.

The study was published in Neurology.

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