Is the Rise in Blood Pressure with Age a Consequence of the Western Lifestyle?

Bottom Line: A common belief in cardiology is that blood pressure (BP) increases with age, although studies find little evidence of that among non-Western adults in isolated communities. But does the association between age and BP differ in two isolated communities with different levels of Westernization? In this study, researchers examined the association between age and BP in two communities in a remote area of the Venezuelan rainforest inaccessible by land. The Yanomami community is made up of hunter-gatherer-gardeners who are among the least assimilated people in the world. The Yekwana people live near the Yanomami but they have been exposed to missions and an airstrip has allowed for delivery of medicine and other features of Western lifestyle, including occasional exposure to processed foods and salt. Blood pressure measurements were taken for 72 Yanomami and 83 Yekwana participants between the ages of 1 and 60 over about five months. Researchers found no age-associated rise in BP in Yanomami children and adults, whereas there was an age-associated rise in BP in the more Western-exposed Yekwana community that began in childhood. These results add to findings that suggest the rise in BP with age may not be natural but rather a consequence of unnatural Western exposures. A limitation of the study was its small sample size.

Authors: Noel T. Mueller, Ph.D., M.P.H., Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, and coauthors

To Learn More: The full study is available on the For The Media website.