Elevated blood pressure is linked to increased risk of aortic valve disease

People who have long-term raised blood pressure have an increased risk of aortic valve disease (AVD) – problems with the valve that controls how blood is pumped from the left ventricle of the heart out into the main artery, the aorta.

In a study of 5.4 million adults in the UK, published in the European Heart Journal [1] today (Thursday), researchers found that above a systolic blood pressure [2] of 115 mmHg, every additional 20 mmHg was associated with a 41% higher risk of aortic stenosis (AS) and a 38% higher risk of aortic regurgitation (AR) later in life. Compared to people who had a systolic blood pressure of 120 mmHg or lower, those with systolic blood pressure of 161 mmHg or higher had more than twice the risk of being diagnosed with AS and were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with AR during follow-up.

The findings suggest that controlling blood pressure, even at levels below the threshold currently defined for hypertension of 140/90 mmHg, may be a way to prevent these conditions [3]. “These findings collectively suggest that AS and AR might be partially preventable with potential implications on clinical practice guidelines for prevention of cardiovascular disease in general and valvular heart disease and hypertension in particular,” write the authors of the EHJ paper.

AS is a condition in which the valve that opens and closes when blood is pumped out of the left ventricle becomes narrowed and stiff due to calcium building up. When this happens, the valve fails to work effectively, making it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. AR occurs when the valve doesn’t close properly, allowing some blood to leak back into the left ventricle.

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