A team of researchers used data from several studies in which blood pressure readings in individuals were repeatedly taken over time and found that blood pressure changes at 4 phases throughout life: a quick increase throughout adolescent growth; a milder increase early on in adult years; an acceleration in the 40s; and by the age of 50, the normal average blood pressure ranges have increased to 129/85. During a period in late adult years, blood pressure will increase slowly and then reduces.
The primary causes of blood pressure increasing over a lifetime can be modified and could be focused on to help prevent heart disease: even though high blood pressure often has no obvious symptoms, this condition, which affects approximately a third of adults in the UK and US, could lead to life threatening stroke and heart attacks, so a reduction in blood pressure is crucial for health.
The researchers analyzed blood pressure readings from 30,372 people between the ages of 7 to 80 years and looked at the differences between the readings in the studies carried out in the general population as well as in an occupational group.
In comparison to the general population, the occupational group had reduced average blood pressure, and midlife blood pressure acceleration seemed to start later. Broader evidence indicates that this could partly reflect blood pressure related factors which are modifiable like diet and lifestyle which can vary with differences in economic and social circumstances. Also, although at the start of adulthood women had lower blood pressure compared to men, an increased midlife acceleration, possibly as a result of menopause related influences on salt sensitivity, means that later in life, women and men had very much the same average blood pressures. The results support the large body of evidence which reveal a strong relationship between body mass index and changes in blood pressure throughout life.