Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Recipe for High Blood Pressure Synergistic Effects of Stress and Lead

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Recipe for High Blood Pressure Synergistic Effects of Stress and Lead

Article excerpt

Human research has shown associations between lead exposure and hypertension as well as between stress and hypertension. A new study now shows for the first time that stress amplifies the effects of lead exposure on blood pressure in humans [EHP 115:1154-1159; Peters et al.].

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute guidelines define high blood pressure as systolic pressure over 140 mmHg or diastolic pressure over 80 mmHg. Systolic pressure tends to rise with age whereas diastolic pressure tends to decline. High readings of either type significantly raise the risk of stroke and coronary disease.

A multi-institutional team examined data from 513 participants in the Normative Aging Study, a longitudinal study of men in the greater Boston area begun in 1963. Using data from the period 1987-1996, the researchers compared blood pressure status with self-reported stress levels (determined by questionnaires) and body burden of lead (determined by bone lead tests). About half the participants did not have hypertension; for this group the researchers analyzed follow-up data until 2004 or the participants developed hypertension, whichever came first. In the latter group, 97 new cases of hypertension were observed.

The study participants averaged 66.9 years of age. This put them in the age group most likely to have high systolic pressure, and meant they were old enough to have been exposed to significant amounts of lead before public policy changes in the 1970s reduced environmental lead from gasoline, paint, and other sources. …

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