What Causes Age-Related Rises in Blood Pressure?

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A Western diet of processed foods and added salt is a primary cause of the blood pressure increases typically seen with age in developed areas of the world, suggests a study involving two tribes of people in remote areas of South America. Results of the study, which was conducted at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, were published in JAMA Cardiology.

Researchers looked at 72 members of the Yanomami tribe, who are hunter-gatherers and gardeners in a remote rainforest in northern Brazil and southern Venezuela, and 83 members of the nearby Yekwana tribe, which is exposed to some Western dietary influences. Study participants were ages 1 to 60. They found that blood pressure didn’t rise with age in the Yanomami but that there was a clear trend toward higher blood pressure with age in the Yekwana.

Previous studies conducted since the 1980s have shown that heart disease, obesity, and hypertension are virtually nonexistent among the Yanomami. Average blood pressure in children and adults in this tribe was 95/63 mmHg (compared to the average in U.S. adults at 122/71 mmHg). In the Yekwana tribe, childhood blood pressure measurements were similar, but increased about 0.25 mmHg per year, to an average of about 16 mmHg higher by age 50.

Sourced from: JAMA Cardiology