Male teens with low stress tolerance are more likely to develop high blood pressure in midlife, suggests analysis of data collected from more than 1.5 million men over a 40-year period.

Researchers from Stanford University in Stanford, California, and Lund University in Malmö, Sweden, conducted the national cohort study based on Swedish government data. In Sweden, psychologists routinely assess 18-year-old male military conscripts for stress resilience to gauge their ability to cope with military service. The Stanford and Lund University researchers obtained conscripts’ stress-resilience reports for 1969 to 1997 and then tracked the men’s medical records in the Swedish national disease registry for the onset of hypertension up to a maximum age of 62.

Data analysis showed that those with the lowest stress-resilience scores were 40% more likely to develop high blood pressure later in life than those with high resilience to stress. This held true, even when other factors such as higher weight, family history and adverse socioeconomic conditions were considered. The study, however, was observational, so no cause-and-effect relationship could be confirmed. Further research is needed.

Study authors noted that their findings suggest stress resilience may play an important long-term role in the cause of hypertension. “If confirmed, this knowledge may help inform more effective preventive interventions by addressing psychosocial risk factors and stress management across the lifespan,” the authors concluded.
The study was published in Heart (2016; doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2015-308597).

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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