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'Normal' Blood Pressure in Male Teens a Warning Sign

Those with slight hike more likely than girls to develop hypertension later, study shows

MONDAY, June 14 (HealthDay News)-- Teen boys with normal blood pressure levels are three to four times more likely to develop high blood pressure in early adulthood than their female counterparts, a new study shows.

Researchers came to this conclusion after studying the blood pressure of 23,191 males and 3,789 females from an average age of 17 until 42. The participants were part of a long-term study conducted by the Israeli Defense Forces.

The study authors found that systolic blood pressure -- the first number in a blood pressure reading -- of 110 and above in the teenage years boosts the risk that a young man will develop high blood pressure when he reaches his 20s and 30s. Levels of 100, 105 and 110 were previously considered normal for teen males.

"Blood pressure values well below the hypertensive range already can serve as good predictors for future hypertension," study co-author Dr. Amir Tirosh, a fellow at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said in a news release from the American Heart Association.

"The rate of progression to hypertension is higher in teenagers whose systolic blood pressure is 110 vs. those whose blood pressure is 100, and is different between boys and girls," he said.

Fourteen percent of the participants studied developed high blood pressure during the follow-up period, but only the group of girls considered obese had a substantially higher risk of developing it. Researchers speculated that the hormone estrogen may protect females from developing high blood pressure as early as the males did.

In the news release, the study authors added that their findings suggested it was never too early to start lifestyle interventions to prevent high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

The study was published online June 14 in Hypertension.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on hypertension.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: American Heart Association, June 14, 2010, news release.

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