A global study led by NUI Galway found that patients under 50 with a form of high blood pressure are at a higher risk of heart attack or death.
Isolated diastolic hypertension (IDH) is defined by the American Heart Association as a diastolic blood pressure number – the force exerted by the heart on the arteries in between beats – greater than 80 millimetres of mercury, or mmHg, and a systolic blood pressure number – the force exerted each time the heart beats – of less than 130mmHg.
The diastolic and systolic blood pressure are represented on the bottom and top numbers of a blood pressure reading respectively.
According to the Irish Heart Foundation, a normal blood pressure is usually around 120/80 mmHg.
The research was led by Professor William McEvoy, Professor of Preventive Cardiology at NUI Galway, consultant cardiologist at Galway University Hospitals and Medical Director of the National Institute for Prevention and Cardiovascular Health (NIPC).
The findings were published in Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association, and examined data from 11,135 patients worldwide.
Participants underwent a 24-hour blood pressure assessment, considered more accurate than office-based blood pressure monitoring.
IDH is a less common form of hypertension and is found in 6-11% of the adult population but is more common among younger adults.
The study found that over-50s with high diastolic blood pressure and normal systolic blood pressure do not have increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Professor McEvoy said that previous research left unanswered questions and recommended that patients under 50 with the condition tackle unhealthy lifestyle and diet while monitoring their systolic blood pressure.
“Prevention of cardiovascular events is possible,” Professor McEvoy said.
“Our recommendations for patients under 50 who have been diagnosed with IDH is to make healthy changes to their lifestyle and to defer drug treatment, while ensuring they have annual blood pressure checks with their doctor, unless elevated systolic blood pressure develops.
“For over 50s with IDH, there does not seem to be an indication to provide drug treatment as long as the diastolic blood pressure is between 80 to 90 mmHg,” he concluded.
Professor Tim O’Brien, Executive Dean of the College of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Science at NUI Galway, and consultant at Saolta University Hospitals Group welcomed the research.
“It helps to settle an open question, raised by previous research and using less rigorous recording of blood pressure.
“Prevention is critical when it comes to the management of patients with cardiovascular disease and this research will help clinical teams make better informed decisions about the management of patient health when treating IDH.”