Wealthier Men at Greater Risk for High Blood Pressure

Working men with higher incomes are at greater risk for developing high blood pressure, according to a new study presented at the 84th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Japanese Circulation Society (JCS 2020).

“Men with higher incomes need to improve their lifestyles to prevent high blood pressure,” said study author Dr. Shingo Yanagiya of the Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, Sapporo, Japan. “Steps include eating healthily, exercising, and controlling weight. Alcohol should be kept to moderate levels and binge drinking avoided.”

Estimates show that more than one billion people have high blood pressure worldwide. Around 30 to 45 percent of adults are affected, rising to more than 60 percent of people over 60 years of age. High blood pressure is the leading global cause of premature death, accounting for almost 10 million deaths in 2015. Of those, 4.9 million were due to ischaemic heart disease and 3.5 million were due to stroke.

In Japan, where the study as conducted, there are more than 10 million people with high blood pressure, and the number continues to rise.

“High blood pressure is a lifestyle-related disease. As a physician seeing these patients I wanted to know if risk varies with socioeconomic class, to help us focus our prevention efforts,” said Yanagiya.

For the study, the research team looked at the link between household income and high blood pressure in Japanese employees. A total of 4,314 workers (3,153 men and 1,161 women) with daytime jobs and normal blood pressure were enrolled in 2012 from 12 different workplaces.

The study participants were divided into four groups according to annual household income: less than 5 million Japanese yen, 5 to 7.9 million yen, 8 to 9.9 million yen, and 10 million or more yen per year. The team looked at the link between income and developing high blood pressure over a two-year period.

The findings show that, compared to men in the lowest income category, those in the highest income group were nearly twice as likely to develop high blood pressure. Men in the 5 to 7.9 million and 8 to 9.9 million groups had a 50% greater risk of developing high blood pressure compared to those with the lowest incomes, although the association did not reach statistical significance in the 8 to 9.9 million group.

The findings remained regardless of age, and were independent of baseline blood pressure, worksite, occupation, number of family members, and smoking. The associations were slightly weakened after accounting for alcohol consumption and body mass index (BMI; kg/m2), both of which were higher for men in the higher income groups.

Among women, there was no significant link between income and blood pressure. However, women with higher household income tended to have a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure.

“Some previous Japanese surveys have reported that higher household income is associated with more undesirable lifestyles in men, but not in women,” said Yanagiya. “Our study supports this: men, but not women, with higher household incomes were more likely to be obese and drink alcohol every day. Both behaviours are major risk factors for hypertension.”

“Men with high-paying daytime jobs are at particular risk of high blood pressure. This applies to men of all ages, who can greatly decrease their chance of a heart attack or stroke by improving their health behaviours.”

Source: European Society of Cardiology

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