Objectives: To determine the relationship between clinically relevant blood pressure (BP) groups and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) presence and severity especially in the milieu of other metabolic risk factors.
Patients and methods: From a Brazilian cohort of 5362 healthy middle-aged men and women who presented for yearly physical examination and testing, the cross-sectional relationship between BP categories and NAFLD was assessed. BP groups were categorized as normal, prehypertension (PHT), and hypertension (HTN) according to the Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure classification. NAFLD was ultrasound diagnosed, excluding persons with alcohol consumption more than 20 g/day. NAFLD severity was estimated using the Fibrosis-4 (FIB-4) risk score.
Results: The prevalence of NAFLD was 36.2%. Participants with NAFLD were older (mean 46 vs. 42 years, P < 0.001) and had elevated BMI (mean 29.0 vs. 24.7 kg/m, P < 0.001). The prevalence of NAFLD among persons with normal BP, PHT, and HTN was 16.5, 37.5, and 59.3%, respectively. In multivariate analyses, PHT and HTN were associated with elevated odds of NAFLD (PHT-adjusted odds ratio 1.3, 95% confidence interval 1.1, 1.6; HTN-adjusted odds ratio 1.8, 95% confidence interval 1.4-2.3) compared with normal BP. Among nonobese hypertensive patients, BP control (BP < 140/90 mmHg) was independently associated with 40% lower odds of prevalent NAFLD. Compared with hypertensive patients, both normotensive individuals and prehypertensive patients were more likely to have a low fibrosis risk (FIB-4 ≥ 1.3).
Conclusion: Prevalent NAFLD may be seen early in the development of hypertension, even in the absence of other metabolic risk factors. Controlling BP among nonobese hypertensive patients may be beneficial in preventing or limiting NAFLD.