Objective: To measure the magnitude and timing of seasonal variation of blood pressure and related factors in the elderly living in the community, and to assess their potential impact on cardiovascular risk.
Design: Prospective study; from January 1991 to February 1992 blood pressure and other variables were measured at 2-monthly intervals in each subject in their own homes.
Subjects: Ninety-six men and women, age range 65-74 years, recruited from a single group general practice in Cambridge.
Main outcome measures: Seasonal variation of blood pressure, seasonal variation of prevalence of hypertension, seasonal variation of ambient temperature and body mass index.
Results: Both systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) were greatest during the winter across the whole distribution of blood pressure. There was a fourfold increase in the proportion of subjects with blood pressures > 160/90 mmHg in winter compared with in summer. Regression analysis revealed highly significant seasonal differences in both SBP and DBP. After adjustment for confounding seasonal effects, a 1 degree C decrease in living-room temperature was associated with rises of 1.3 mmHg in SBP and 0.6 mmHg in DBP.
Conclusions: Seasonal variation of blood pressure is heightened in older adults and may partly explain the greater cardiovascular disease mortality of elderly subjects during the winter. The blood pressures of elderly people may be inversely related to the ambient temperature. The public health implications of these findings deserve further investigation.