The relationship between blood lead levels and blood pressure and its cardiovascular risk implications

Am J Epidemiol. 1985 Feb;121(2):246-58. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a113995.


The relationship between blood pressure and blood lead levels in the second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1976-1980) has been examined for white males aged 40-59 years. After adjustment for age, body mass index, nutritional factors, and blood biochemistries in a multiple linear regression model, the relationship of systolic and diastolic blood pressures to blood lead levels was statistically significant (p less than 0.01). There was no evidence of a threshold blood lead level for this relationship. Although these data alone do not prove a casual relationship between low blood lead levels and blood pressure, the findings are consistent with current epidemiologic and animal studies, indicating that a causal relationship is probable. To examine the potential health risks, the multiple logistic risk factor coefficients from the Pooling Project and Framingham studies were used to predict the impact of the 37% decrease in mean blood lead levels which occurred in adult white males from 1976 to 1980. As a result of this blood lead decrease, the calculations predicted a 4.7% decrease in the incidence of fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarction over 10 years, a 6.7% decrease in the incidence of fatal and nonfatal strokes over 10 years, and a 5.5% decrease in the incidence of death from all causes over 11.5 years. In addition, as a result of this blood lead decrease, the predicted number of white males in this age group with hypertension (diastolic blood pressure greater than or equal to 90 mmHg) decreased by 17.5%.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure* / drug effects
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Diastole / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Lead / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Myocardial Infarction / etiology
  • Myocardial Infarction / physiopathology
  • Public Health
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk
  • Systole / drug effects


  • Lead