Blood Pressure Trajectories across the Life Course

Norrina B. Allen*, Sadiya S. Khan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


High blood pressure (BP) is a strong modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Longitudinal BP patterns themselves may reflect the burden of risk and vascular damage due to prolonged cumulative exposure to high BP levels. Current studies have begun to characterize BP patterns as a trajectory over an individual's lifetime. These BP trajectories take into account the absolute BP levels as well as the slope of BP changes throughout the lifetime thus incorporating longitudinal BP patterns into a single metric. Methodologic issues that need to be considered when examining BP trajectories include individual-level vs. population-level group-based modeling, use of distinct but complementary BP metrics (systolic, diastolic, mean arterial, mid, and pulse pressure), and potential for measurement errors related to varied settings, devices, and number of readings utilized. There appear to be very specific developmental periods during which divergent BP trajectories may emerge, specifically adolescence, the pregnancy period, and older adulthood. Lifetime BP trajectories are impacted by both individual-level and community-level factors and have been associated with incident hypertension, multimorbidity (CVD, renal disease, cognitive impairment), and overall life expectancy. Key unanswered questions remain around the additive predictive value of BP trajectories, intergenerational contributions to BP patterns (in utero BP exposure), and potential genetic drivers of BP patterns. The next phase in understanding BP trajectories needs to focus on how best to incorporate this knowledge into clinical care to reduce the burden of hypertensive-related outcomes and improve health equity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-241
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Hypertension
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021


  • blood pressure
  • hypertension
  • life course
  • trajectories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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