Young adults with slightly elevated blood pressure may be at risk of heart problems later in life, according to a new study.
Researchers cautioned that blood pressure on the high end of what's considered "normal" should be addressed early on to protect heart health for the future.
"Our findings provide further support for the importance of good risk factor control early in life," said study lead author Dr. Joao Lima, from the cardiology division at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
"Many participants were not hypertensive at the beginning of the study; however, chronic exposure to higher blood pressure, even within what is considered the normal range, is associated with cardiac dysfunction 25 years later," Lima said in a news release from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, where the study was published June 22.
Researchers followed nearly 2,500 men and women over the course of 25 years. They were between 18 and 30 years old when the study began.
During the study period, researchers looked at the participants' health seven times. Part of their evaluations included blood pressure readings. Towards the end of the study, the researchers also performed cardiac imaging tests.
They found those participants who had slightly elevated blood pressure that was still considered within normal range when they were between 18 and 30 years old were more likely to have problems with their left ventricle once they reached middle age.
Though the authors only found an association rather than a cause-and-effect link, and while more research is needed to confirm these findings, they concluded that young adults with elevated blood pressure should not ignore it.
Journal editor-in-chief Dr. Valentin Fuster commented in the news release, "These findings bring into question whether blood pressure monitoring should begin in childhood, particularly in obese children."
The researchers said young people can take the following steps to protect their long-term heart health, such as reducing sodium intake, maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular physical activity. They also suggest following through on any recommended medical treatments for high blood pressure.