High blood pressure in young adults

May 9, 2008 8:47:44 PM PDT
We think of it as an older person's problem, but high blood pressure affects people of all ages. And the longer it goes on the higher your risks grow.

Joe Procopio works out almost everyday. He's getting ready to graduate from LaSalle University and he's hoping to play professional football.

"It's been a dream of mine since I was a little boy," Joe said.

But while on the outside, he looks like the reflection of good health. On the inside it's a different story. Joe's blood pressure runs high. And at 22-years-old, he's not alone. Some studies show the average blood pressure of younger people is on the rise.

With the help of nurse practitioners at LaSalle's Student Health Center Action News set up to screen college kids to see what we'd find.

Out of 55 kids tested, five of them tested high. That's almost 10-percent. Normal blood pressure is 120/80. Joe's read 152/102.

"I expected to stumble on 1 to 2, but I didn't think we'd have five," said MaryAnn Dugan, N.P., R.N. at LaSalle University.

Cardiologist Dr. Marc Tecce of Jefferson University Hospital was also surprised by our results. He said if high blood pressure is on the rise for younger people that may be just a result of more kids getting tested.

The rise in obesity also plays a role. But Joe's not overweight nor is another student who is also an athlete; his blood pressure was 122/90.

And for Mandy Bee, 19-years-old and very slim; her reading was 142/80.

"I was really surprised when I found out," said Mandy.

In fact out of the five with high readings only one would be considered mildly overweight. None were smokers. Mandy attributes her high reading to stress.

Rashan Lucas, also 19-years-old, had a reading of 164/90. He partly blames his diet.

"French fries, maybe a cheeseburger that's not daily but maybe once a week," he said.

But there's one thing all five students have in common.

"My mom has high blood pressure," one athlete said.

"I mean I do have a family history of bad things," Mandy said.

"Big Italian family so," Joe said.

All have a family history of high blood pressure.

"That just kind of further enhances what we know in terms of high blood pressure being much higher in families," said Dr. Tecce.

The screening is a red flag. High blood pressure is known as the silent killer. It raises the risk of stroke, heart attack and kidney disease.

The students were told to come back for two more readings if those are high, it's vital they get treated early either by changing their lifestyle or taking medication.

"If they're put on it now, they can significantly decrease their risk of long-term complications," MaryAnn said.

Dr. Tecce urges everyone to get screened no matter what you're age especially if you have risks.

Joe promised to follow-up.

"Without your health, you can't really do anything," he said.

For more information on high blood pressure:
American Heart Association
Your Guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure
Medline Plus