To investigate the prevalence and determinants of spurious systolic hypertension (SSH) in a population-based sample of young adults and estimate their 20-year risk of coronary heart disease.
Population and methods
Seven hundred and fifty young adults (352 men and 398 women), aged 26–31 years, from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Young Adults study were studied. Blood pressure levels were measured twice and central (aortic) pressures were derived by applanation tonometry on the radial artery using a generalized transfer function. SSH was defined as brachial systolic blood pressure (SBP) ≥ 140 mmHg, brachial diastolic blood pressure (DBP) < 90 mmHg, and central SBP < 124 mmHg for men and < 120 mmHg for women. The Framingham risk score was calculated. Analysis of variance models were used to compare SSH individuals with normotensive and hypertensive males for cardiovascular risk factors.
SSH was diagnosed in 57 men (16.1%; 95% confidence interval, 12.3–20.0) versus only three women (8%; 95% confidence interval, 0–1.6). The female population was excluded from further analysis. Compared with normotensive males, SSH individuals were heavier (88.7 versus 81.8 kg, P < 0.05) had a higher body mass index (25.8 versus 24.2 kg/m2, P < 0.01) and significantly higher brachial and central SBP, DBP, pulse pressure, and mean arterial pressure. They had significantly higher pulse pressure amplification. Twenty-year Framingham risk scores based on DBP did not differ significantly between SSH subjects and normotensive individuals (2.72 versus 2.10%, respectively).
SSH is predominantly found among young adult men. Apart from weight and body mass index, no other cardiovascular risk factors differed significantly between subjects with SSH and normotension or hypertension. When calculating the 20-year risk of coronary heart disease based on brachial DBP, SSH individuals were at intermediate risk between normotensive and hypertensive participants, but differences were not statistically significant.