Objective: To analyse the relationships between 24 h blood pressure load (the percentage of systolic/diastolic blood pressures exceeding 140/90 mmHg while awake and 120/80 mmHg during sleep) and some indices of hypertensive target organ involvement, independently of the mean level of 24 h blood pressure.
Methods: One hundred and thirty patients with mild-to-moderate hypertension underwent 24 h ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, ocular fundus examination, microalbuminuria assay and two-dimensional guided M-mode echocardiography. The study population was divided into subsets according to the systolic and diastolic 24 h blood pressure load values predicted from the regression equation relating 24 h blood pressure load to 24 h mean blood pressure. The subjects with an observed load above this predicted value were included in the higher blood pressure load groups, the remaining ones being included in the lower groups.
Results: Relative myocardial wall thickness and total peripheral resistance were greater, and mid-wall fractional shortening, end-systolic stress-corrected mid-wall fractional shortening and cardiac index lower, in the subjects with a higher systolic blood pressure load. Moreover, the stroke index:pulse pressure ratio was reduced, and a greater prevalence of hypertensive retinopathy was observed in the higher systolic load group. On the contrary, no statistically significant difference was found for any of the cardiac, renal and funduscopic parameters examined when the two groups with a higher and lower 24 h diastolic blood pressure load were compared.
Conclusions: Our results seem to suggest that, in mild-to-moderate arterial hypertension, a high 24 h systolic blood pressure load may be associated, independently of the average level of 24 h systolic ambulatory blood pressure, with an adverse cardiovascular risk profile.