Blood pressure and high blood pressure aspects of risk

Jeremiah Stamler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Scopus citations


This report deals with three aspects of risk related to blood pressure and high blood pressure. The first aspect of risk concerns distributions of systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) in the adult population and their relation to long-term risk of morbidity and mortality. By middle age, only a minority (about 20%) of Americans have optimal SBP and DBP levels, <120 mm Hg and <80 mm Hg, respectively. For the majority with higher levels, risks of major clinical events, including death from cardiovascular diseases and from all causes, are markedly increased. The relations of SBP and DBP with risk are strong, continuous, and graded. Risk is sizable not only for persons with high blood pressure by usual clinical criteria (SBP >140 mm Hg or DBP ≥90 mm Hg), but also for those with “high-normal” blood pressure (e.g., SBP 130-139 mm Hg or DBP 80-89 mm Hg). Thus, the blood pressure problem is a population-wide one and requires for its control a combined population-wide and high-risk strategy, A mgjor component of this strategy must be nutritional-hygienic measures for the primary prevention of the rise in blood pressure during adulthood and of high blood pressure (i.e., primary prevention not only of the complications of high blood pressure but also of high blood pressure itself) through improved lifestyles having the potential to shift downward the blood pressure distribu-tion of the whole population. The second aspect of risk concerns the known risk factors (i.e., aspects of modern lifestyle) leading to the mass occurrence of blood pressure rise during adulthood and of high blood pressure. These risk factors are high salt intake, high dietary sodium/potassium ratio, calorie imbalance and resultant obesity, and high alcohol intake. The extensive data base establishing the role of these common traits in the etiology of the blood pressure/high blood pressure problem is the scientific foundation for efforts to achieve the primary prevention of high blood pressure. The third aspect of risk relates to the combined impact of other risk factors along with blood pressure-high blood pressure in markedly increasing the probabilities of morbidity and mortality (e.g., “rich” diet, diet-dependent serum cholesterol and uric acid, smoking, diabetes, and target-organ damage). Prevention and control of lifestyle-related traits are essential components of the strategy for dealing with the blood pressure-high blood pressure problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)I-95-I-107
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1991


  • Alcohol
  • Blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Population studies
  • Potassium
  • Risk factors
  • Salt
  • Sodium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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