Background: Recently, the seventh report of the Joint National Committee on prevention, detection, evaluation, and treatment of high blood pressure introduced the term "pre-hypertension" for systolic blood pressure (BP) levels of 120-139 and diastolic BP levels of 80-89 mmHg. Our aim was to establish the prevalence of this novel entity among young subjects, and to assess the rate of progression to hypertension.
Methods: We retrospectively analyzed the data of a group of 367 male aviators who were examined at the age of 18 and who were followed for an average of 18 +/- 7 yr (range 3-37 yr). Systolic and diastolic BP, heart rate, and body mass index (BMI) were measured at the age of 18 and at the end of the follow-up.
Results: At the age of 18, 176 subjects (48%) had pre-hypertension. Subjects with pre-hypertension had higher BP levels (132 +/- 6/76 +/- 8 vs. 115 +/- 6/72 +/- 7 mmHg; p < 0.001), heart rate (71 +/- 12 vs. 65 +/- 12 bpm; p < 0.001) and BMI (22.4 +/- 2.9 vs. 21.7 +/- 2.5 kg x m(-2); p < 0.05) than the subjects with normal BP. During the follow-up period, 110 subjects (30%), 77 with pre-hypertension and 33 with normal BP, developed hypertension. Pre-hypertensive subjects had an odds ratio of 3.7 (95% CI; 2.3-6.2) to develop hypertension as compared with subjects with normal BP.
Conclusions: Pre-hypertension is common and it predicts the development of frank hypertension. Thus, subjects with pre-hypertension should be closely followed and encouraged to begin lifestyle modification in order to prevent future complications.