The Dangers of Organ Damage in Hypertensive Young Men and Teens

By Dorothy L. Tengler via Multibriefs

About 75 million American adults have high blood pressure — roughly 1 of every 3 adults. High blood pressure may not manifest with any symptoms, but it's important to get under control because it can lead to heart attack and stroke.

About 7 of every 10 people having their first heart attack have high blood pressure, 8 of every 10 people having their first stroke have high blood pressure, and 7 of every 10 people with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure.

Since the early 2000s, hypertension awareness, treatment and control have improved, yet all three remain worse in young adults — especially young men. For those younger than 45, the condition affects more men than women: 11 percent of men ages 20-34 percent compared to 6.8 percent of women. And because younger men find it difficult to believe they have hypertension, they fall behind in treatment and control.

In one recent study based on 1999-2014 data taken from more than 41,000 people, researchers found that only half of the 6.7 million young adults with hypertension in 2013-2014 received treatment, and only 40 percent got their high blood pressure under control. Awareness, treatment and control were lower among young men compared to young women.

For young men, awareness was 68.4 percent, compared to 86 percent for young women. Only 43.7 percent of young men sought treatment versus 61.3 percent of young women, and 33.7 of young men had their high blood pressure under control compared to 51.8 percent of women.

This study suggests ineffective high blood pressure screening and management among young adults, particularly males, and emphasizes the need to focus on early hypertension prevention and management to avoid organ damage.

In fact, according to another recent study, the growing number of obese children in the United States is leading to a rise of high blood pressure, increasing the risk of organ failure in teens. The symptoms for advanced organ failure in teens would be the same as those for adults. But the study also found that damage to the heart and blood vessels can occur in teens who aren't flagged as having blood pressure problems, those who have supposedly normal blood pressure less than the 90th percentile.

Elaine M. Urbina, MD, MS, study author and director of preventive cardiology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, and colleagues looked at blood pressure and measured organ damage in 180 teenagers (14-17 years old, 57 percent males), to determine whether organ damage in teens develops below the 95th percentile, which is the clinical definition of high blood pressure in young people.

They noted evidence of organ damage in teens categorized as normal, with blood pressure less than in the 80th percentile. In addition, they found heart and vessel damage in the mid-risk group, those with blood pressures in the 80th and 90th percentiles and in the high-risk group, with blood pressures above the 90th percentile.

Early development of mild organ injury in this patient population means that, unlike older adults, these teens are at risk of developing advanced stages of target organ damage earlier in adulthood, which may result in a loss of productive years of life. The researchers concluded that imaging of the heart may be warranted in young people in the high-normal range of blood pressure to determine appropriate therapy, such as medication or lifestyle changes.

Dorothy L. Tengler, MA, is a freelance medical writer/communication specialist with nearly 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and medical communication industries. She has developed educational and medical marketing materials, including monographs, slide kits, health articles, primary and review manuscripts, and pharmaceutical sales training materials.


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