Stressed Teens at Risk for Later-in-Life Hypertension

Posted 03/09/2016 | By HealthCorps

A new Swedish study suggests that when teens experience high levels of stress during adolescence, they are at significant risk of developing hypertension in adulthood. Hypertension (high blood pressure) raises the risk of heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the U.S.

The Swedish research data

A team of researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai used information from the Swedish National Disease Registry, which tracked the health outcomes of over 1.5 million men who served in the army. The subjects all underwent 20-30 minute interviews to assess their psychological state and ability to handle stress during the recruitment. The scoring system was one to nine with a nine representing high resilience. This medical screening was compulsory for all 18 year olds in Sweden, so 95% of the entire young male population was assessed. The researchers followed the men till age 47, compiling health information including the onset of high blood pressure.

Mount Sinai researchers assess the data

Out of the total group of subjects, 6% developed hypertension as adults. Dr. Crump, the lead researcher divided the subjects into five groups, based on their mental health scores. Low stress resilience (a lower score) was directly associated with increased risk of hypertension. Men in the lowest quintile (low mental resilience) had a 40% increased risk of developing high blood pressure, compared to those in the highest scoring quintile.

Adding a high BMI and Type 2 diabetes to a low score significantly increased the risk of developing hypertension. Having a higher education level, and living in a higher socioeconomic circumstance, individually and together, reduced the risk of hypertension in later life.

Hypertension facts

One in three adults in the U.S. currently has hypertension. Hypertension accounts for one in seven deaths in the U.S. By the year 2025 it’s estimated that globally, 1.5 billion people might be affected by high blood pressure and its associated health conditions. Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and a diet high in sodium are considered the top contributors to risk of hypertension. Recently, childhood trauma, financial stressors, depression, anxiety and a personality that includes impatience and hostility, have also been implicated as risk factors for hypertension. This new study confirms the impact that poor coping skills and limited resiliency can have on one’s risk of developing hypertension.

Mental strength training can help to intercept high blood pressure

Based on this new research, it is obvious that helping teens to develop coping skills and mental strength and resiliency could help them to avoid or limit their risk of developing hypertension. Programs like HealthCorps and HCU (HealthCorps University) have a core lesson component that helps to support teen mental health.

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