Upper end normal blood pressure and an elevated risk for atrial fibrillation

A new study is out which links “Normal Blood Pressure” to atrial fibrillation later in life. The following are excerpts from the American Heart Association press release January 17, 2012.

Middle-aged men at the upper end of normal blood pressure had an elevated risk for atrial fibrillation later in life, according to new research in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common heart rhythm disorder in which irregular heartbeats can lead to stroke and other heart-related complications; it affects over 2.7 million Americans. While hypertension is a risk factor for AF, the health consequences of upper-normal blood pressure are not yet fully understood.

For 35 years, researchers followed 40- to 59-year-old healthy Norwegian men from a database of 2,014. They recorded the men’s blood pressure at the start of the study and tracked health events such as AF. They conducted a follow-up survey an average of seven years after the initial survey, in which 1,758 men participated. Beyond seven years, only men who were considered healthy were included in analysis, which reduced the number of participants to 1,423.

U.S. guidelines define high blood pressure as systolic pressure (top number) at 140 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher and diastolic pressure (bottom number) at 90 mm Hg or higher. They define pre-hypertension as systolic pressures from 120 to 139 mm Hg and diastolic pressures from 80 to 89 mm Hg.

In the study, while upper-normal systolic blood pressure was 128-138 mm Hg, the authors acknowledge that the range differs from current European blood pressure guidelines.

During the study’s follow-up, 270 men, or 13 percent, developed AF.

Major findings from the study include:

* Men with systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher at the start of the study had a 60 percent increased risk of developing AF, compared to men with normal systolic blood pressure.
* Men with systolic blood pressure of 128 to 138 mm Hg (upper normal) had a 50 percent increased risk of developing AF during follow-up, compared with men with systolic pressures below 128 mm Hg (normal).
* Men with diastolic blood pressure of 80 mm Hg or higher at the start of the study had a 79 percent increased risk of subsequent AF, compared with men with diastolic blood pressure below 80 mm Hg (normal).
* On average, atrial fibrillation developed 20 years after baseline.

Grundvold,I, et al.Upper Normal Blood Pressures Predict Incident Atrial Fibrillation in Healthy Middle-Aged Men. A 35-Year Follow-Up Study HYPERTENSION AHA.111.179713 Published online before print January 17, 2012, doi: 10.1161

What are Options for Treatment?
At the Magaziner Center for Wellness, before embarking on any treatment plan, we speak to each patient about his or her lifestyle, and run tests to check for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, heavy metal toxicity and insulin resistance, which have all been associated with hypertension.

When necessary, we help our patients achieve their ideal body weight by making dietary modifications and committing to an exercise routine. Across our practice, but especially with patients who suffer from hypertension, we recommend a “clean” diet – one that is low in sugar and salt, features non-processed foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables and incorporates fish (provided the patient is not vegetarian or vegan) and healthy oils. In cases where there is a lot of weight to be lost, we offer more aggressive strategies – such as medically-based diets that utilize naturally-occurring hormones that stimulate metabolism, suppress appetite and mobilize fat – to help patients achieve marked weight loss, quickly.

If testing confirms that there is an excess body burden of mercury, lead and cadmium (either of all three or of any one), we utilize chelation therapy and other detoxification techniques to cleanse the body, as these metals have been linked to hypertension.

We utilize supplements – including herbals (like Hawthorne), minerals (including magnesium, as a shortage of this mineral may cause hypertension), Omega 3 fatty acids (useful in treating the disorder) and argInine (an amino acid that helps dilate blood vessels).

Lastly, we encourage our patients to seek out – and stick with – stress reduction techniques ranging from prayer and meditation to yoga and Tai Chi to help manage, and in most cases, drastically reduce, their hypertension and related symptoms.