And that new, remarkable insight makes it easier to track down people suffering from this condition.
Many people suffer from high blood pressure. And that is quite worrying, because it is a major risk factor for heart problems. However, it remains difficult for doctors to know exactly who is affected by high blood pressure. In the Netherlands, for example, approximately 2.8 million people suffer from it. But 40 percent don’t know it about themselves. A new study now proposes a special method to detect these people more quickly. “Interventions that target partners may be particularly effective,” said researcher Bethany Gibbs.
More about high blood pressure
High blood pressure is a growing problem. In the past thirty years, the number of adults aged 30 to 79 with high blood pressure worldwide has even doubled. In 1990, it was estimated that approximately 331 million women and 317 million men had high blood pressure. But in 2019, as many as 626 million women and 652 million men suffered from this condition. The largest increase can be seen in low- and middle-income countries. Although it is fairly easy to detect and relatively easy to treat with affordable medications, many people do not know they have high blood pressure. In 2019, almost half of people worldwide (41 percent of women and 51 percent of men) were unaware of this. In addition, more than half of people with high blood pressure, which amounts to 720 million people, did not receive treatment.
The study suggests that many couples worldwide may be dealing with similar high blood pressure. This means that if one spouse or partner has high blood pressure, the other often experiences the same problem. “Many people are aware that high blood pressure is common in middle-aged and older adults,” said researcher Chihua Li. “But it was surprising to discover that in many older couples, both the man and the woman experience this.”
For this study, scientists studied data from couples in the United States, England, China and India. Specifically, they looked at the blood pressure of 3,989 American couples, 1,086 English couples, 6,514 Chinese couples and 22,389 Indian couples. “Our study is the first to investigate the relationship between having high blood pressure in partners,” said researcher Jithin Varghese. “And we have done that in both prosperous and less prosperous countries. We were curious whether many married couples, who often share similar interests, living environment, lifestyle and health outcomes, also experience shared high blood pressure.”
The findings are remarkable. Almost half of the people surveyed in England, namely 47 percent, suffer from high blood pressure. In the United States it is 38 percent, in China 21 percent and in India 20 percent. Women in the US and England are also 9 percent more likely to have high blood pressure if their husband also has it. This is 19 percent in India and 26 percent in China.
The results show that the risk of high blood pressure is highest in both England and the US. But in China and India, partners of people with high blood pressure are also more likely to suffer from high blood pressure themselves. “Although high blood pressure is more common in the US and England than in China and India, the association between high blood pressure in both partners is stronger in China and India,” said co-lead author Peiyi Lu. “A possible explanation for this may be cultural. In China and India, there is a strong belief in staying together as a family, which means couples can influence each other’s health more. Moreover, couples here are highly dependent on each other. Therefore, their health may also be more closely intertwined.”
As mentioned, having high blood pressure is dangerous. It is the cause of about half of all deaths from cardiovascular disease in the Netherlands, and one in seven deaths overall. It can also cause damage to other organs, such as the kidneys and eyes. That is why the findings from the study are so important. The findings show that if your partner has high blood pressure, you are more likely to have it too. This can help doctors identify more people with high blood pressure. “The results indicate that involving couples together in the detection and treatment of high blood pressure may be useful,” Li notes. “This can be done, for example, by screening them together, training them in skills or participating in joint programs.”
At the same time you can also do something yourself. “Lifestyle changes, such as exercising more, reducing stress or eating healthier, can help lower blood pressure,” says Gibbs. It is also best to stop smoking and consume less salt. This means that you largely influence how high your blood pressure becomes. And the good news is that you don’t have to tackle these changes alone; your partner can benefit from it too.
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