Blood pressure variability and the risk of all-cause mortality, incident myocardial infarction, and incident stroke in the cardiovascular health study

Am J Hypertens. 2013 Oct;26(10):1210-7. doi: 10.1093/ajh/hpt092. Epub 2013 Jun 6.


Background: Recent reports have linked variability in visit-to-visit systolic blood pressure (SBP) to risk of mortality and stroke, independent of the effect of mean SBP level. This study aimed to evaluate whether variability in SBP is associated with all-cause mortality, incident myocardial infarction (MI), and incident stroke, independent of mean SBP or trends in SBP levels over time.

Methods: The Cardiovascular Health Study is a longitudinal cohort study of vascular risk factors and disease in the elderly. Participants who attended their first 5 annual clinic visits and experienced no event before the 5th visit were eligible (n = 3,852). Primary analyses were restricted to participants not using antihypertensive medications throughout the first 5 clinic visits (n = 1,642). Intraindividual SBP variables were defined using each participant's 5-visit blood pressure measures. Cox proportional hazards models estimated adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) per SD increase in intraindividual SBP variability, adjusted for intraindividual SBP mean and change over time.

Results: Over a mean follow-up of 9.9 years, there were 844 deaths, 203 MIs, and 195 strokes. Intraindividual SBP variability was significantly associated with increased risk of mortality (HR = 1.13; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.05-1.21) and of incident MI (HR = 1.20; 95%CI = 1.06-1.36), independent of the effect from adjustment factors. Intraindividual SBP variability was not associated with risk of stroke (HR = 1.03; 95% CI = 0.89-1.21).

Conclusions: Long-term visit-to-visit SBP variability was independently associated with a higher risk of subsequent mortality and MI but not stroke. More research is needed to determine the relationship of BP variability with cardiovascular risk and the clinical implications.

Keywords: blood pressure; blood pressure variability; hypertension; mortality; myocardial infarction; stroke..

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mortality
  • Myocardial Infarction / epidemiology*
  • Myocardial Infarction / etiology
  • Risk
  • Stroke / epidemiology*
  • Stroke / etiology
  • United States / epidemiology