LIFESTYLE
02/02/2016 10:05 GMT | Updated 02/02/2016 10:59 GMT

Young Adults Who Stress Easily At Risk Of High Blood Pressure In Later Life, Study Suggests

Young adults who become stressed easily could suffer from high blood pressure in later life, new research suggests.

Experts added that those who suffer stress and are overweight during early adulthood triple their risk.

Having high blood pressure can increase a person's risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

stress

In the past, research has associated greater reactivity to stress with an increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

But this is the first study to assess the potential impact of a person's ability to cope with stress in early adulthood - and how this impacts their health in later life.

Researchers used national disease registry data to track the health of more than 1.5 million 18-year-old men, who had joined the army in Sweden between 1969 and 1997, until the end of 2012.

None of the conscripts had high blood pressure when they began their stint in the military, but each was assessed by trained psychologists for their levels of stress resilience as part of their two-day medical.

The medical check-up was compulsory for nearly all 18-year-old men nationwide, every year, and covered 97% of the male population between 1969 and 1997.

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Stress resilience was measured by structured interview, lasting 20 to 30 minutes, and designed to find out how well the conscript would cope with the psychological demands of military service, including armed combat.

The men were asked about psychological adjustments made, their conflicts and successes, and responsibilities assumed at school, home, or at work.

This information was then used to gain an understanding of an individual’s emotional stability and maturity and arrive at a score of between 1 and 9 on the stress resilience scale (with 9 indicating high resilience).

Between 1969 and 2012, some 93,000 of the conscripts were diagnosed with high blood pressure.

The average age of the men at the end of the monitoring period was 47, and the average age at diagnosis was 49.

A low stress resilience score at the age of 18 was associated with a heightened risk of developing high blood pressure in later life.

Men with the lowest stress resilience scores had a 40% heightened risk of developing the condition than those with the highest scores.

This held true even after taking account of other influential factors in their youth, such as excess weight, family history of high blood pressure, and unfavourable socioeconomic factors.

Compared with men of normal weight (BMI) and high stress resilience scores in their youth, those who achieved low scores and who had a high BMI at the age of 18 were more than three times as likely to have high blood pressure in later life.

Researchers noted that it is purely an observational study, which means no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.

But they added that the findings suggest that poor ability to cope with stress in late adolescence may have a long term impact on susceptibility to high blood pressure.

"If confirmed, this knowledge may help inform more effective prevention interventions by addressing psychosocial risk factors and stress management across the lifespan," they concluded.

The research was published online in the journal Heart.

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