Investigation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure in Young People: Too Much Medicine or Appropriate Risk Reduction?

Hypertension. 2020 Jan;75(1):16-22. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.119.13820. Epub 2019 Nov 18.


Hypertension among young people is common, affecting 1 in 8 adults aged between 20 and 40 years. This number is likely to increase with lifestyle behaviors and lowering of hypertension diagnostic thresholds. Early-life factors influence blood pressure (BP) although the mechanisms are unclear; BP tracks strongly within individuals from adolescence through to later life. Higher BP at a young age is associated with abnormalities on heart and brain imaging and increases the likelihood of cardiovascular events by middle age. However, diagnosis rates are lower, and treatment is often delayed in young people. This reflects the lack of high-quality evidence that lowering BP in young adults improves cardiovascular outcomes later in life. In this review, we evaluate the current evidence regarding the association between BP in young adult life and adverse cardiovascular outcomes later in life. Following this, we discuss which young people with raised BP should be investigated for secondary causes of hypertension. Third, we assess the current models to assess cardiovascular risk and show a lack of validation in the younger age group. Fourth, we evaluate the evidence for lifestyle interventions in this age group and demonstrate a lack of persistence in BP lowering once the initial intervention has been delivered. Fifth, we address the pros and cons of drug treatment for raised BP in young people. Finally, there are unique life events in young people, such as pregnancy, that require specific advice on management and treatment of BP.

Keywords: adult; blood pressure; hypertension; risk factors; young adult.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Blood Pressure Determination
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Life Style
  • Medical Overuse
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Young Adult


  • Antihypertensive Agents