Here’s Why High Blood Pressure Before Age 40 is Extremely Dangerous

High blood pressure at any age is concerning. It can lead to serious health problems down the road. But now, experts are saying that the age at which you get high blood pressure matters more than they once thought when it comes to your overall health. And having high blood pressure before age 40 can be detrimental — here’s why.

Nurse checking a patient's blood pressure

High blood pressure is a concern at any age, but it’s worse if you’re under 40. | Zinkevych/iStock/Getty Images

What causes high blood pressure?

High blood pressure can be genetic or caused by poor eating and exercise habits. It occurs when the pressure from the blood on the artery walls is higher than it should be, meaning that it’s harder for oxygenated blood to circulate through the body. The arteries must work harder to properly circulate the blood, which causes the artery walls to thicken. Over time, the walls might thicken too much, which can cause a blockage. A blockage can lead to severe complications such as a heart attack or stroke.

High blood pressure can happen at any age

It is commonly thought that high blood pressure isn’t something to worry about until you’re past middle age. Actually, high blood pressure can occur at any age. And in recent years, the rates in adults as young as their 20s have been steadily increasing. A recent study found that 19% of young adults between the ages of 24 and 32, or roughly one in five, are living with high blood pressure. Although the risk does increase as you age, it’s not unheard of to have the condition that early. And if you’re diagnosed with hypertension at younger than 40, you could have even more trouble as you age.

Researchers say you have a much greater risk of heart disease and stroke if you have high blood pressure before age 40

High blood pressure typically doesn’t stand alone. If you’re of middle age and have hypertension, it is usually accompanied by a few other problems, such as obesity and high cholesterol. But two recent studies have confirmed that those who have high blood pressure under 40 have a much greater risk of suffering from heart disease or a stroke. One study followed 4,800 Americans, and the results showed that those with high blood pressure under 40 were at a 3.5 times greater risk of heart disease and stroke over the course of about 19 years.

The second study followed young adults in South Korea and found similar results. The data looked at nearly 2.5 million young adults and found that for those under age 40 with hypertension, the heart disease risk increased greatly. Women had a 76% greater risk of cardiovascular disease, while men had an 85% greater risk.

But there are several healthy habits you can form to reduce your risk

In most cases, high blood pressure can be avoided. It all starts with a healthy diet and daily exercise. The best way to avoid high blood pressure is to make sure you’re eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and avoiding a high-sodium diet. Sodium is necessary for your body, but too much of it prevents the kidneys from properly filtering your blood, leading to hypertension. Exercising your heart is important, too. Make sure to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes per week of rigorous exercise. Forming habits such as these will reduce your overall risk, and in turn reduce your heart disease, heart attack, and stroke risks.

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