Medical Students Have Greater Risk of Hypertension Compared to General Public

SEPTEMBER 06, 2019
Patrick Campbell
medical studentsWhile medical school is known to cause mental and physical strain on medical students, a recent study presented at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions is examining how medical school can impact heart health.

Results of the study, which involved 213 medical students, revealed just 36.6% of first- and second-year medical students had normal blood pressure levels while 29.1% had stage 1 hypertension and 17.8% had stage 2 hypertension.

"While this is a small study, it is interesting. As one of the most common and dangerous risk factors for heart disease and stroke, all people, even those who are young and believed to be in good health, should have their blood pressure checked routinely," said the Mariell Jessup, MD, FAHA, the American Heart Association Chief Science and Medical Officer.

In an effort to expand the knowledge base available on the heart health of medical students, investigators from Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee examined hypertension in cohort of 213 medical students from the DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine. Of the 213 students included in the study 49.8% were male and the mean age of the cohort was 25.8 years — investigators noted the overall age range of participants was 21 to 37 years old.

Students completed a survey that assessed age, gender, diet, alcohol consumption, diet, aerobic exercise, mental health, social support, and past medical history. Blood pressure was measured using Omron BP710N sphygmomanometers and waist circumference was measured around the umbilicus.

Hypertension stages were defined through the use of 2017 American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Additionally, investigators performed a multinomial regression analysis to assess risk factors for different stages of hypertension.

Upon analysis, 36.6% (78/213) of students were considered normotensive, 16.4% (35/213) had prehypertension, 29.1% had stage 1 hypertension,  and 17.8% (38/213) had stage 2 hypertension. Investigators noted the regression model was significant and explained 51.6% of the variance in hypertension — additionally, it correctly classified 57.4% of cases.

Exercise, anxiety, and diet were insignificant factors in the regression model while gender, waist circumference, and amount of sleep were considered significant. Male students were 13.26 times more likely (P<0.001) to develop hypertension than female students. A 1 inch increase in waist circumference was associated with an 11% in tease in developing stage 2 hypertension (P<0.001).

Based on results of the study, investigators concluded medical students were at a 2.4 times greater risk of developing stage 2 hypertension.

"Elevated blood pressure should not be something that we only associate with being older," said lead investigator Jacek Bednarz, Jr., a third-year medical student at Lincoln Memorial University. "Young people lack awareness about their own blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure regularly checked is a simple way to protect one's health."

This study, “American Medical Students Have a Higher Prevalence of Stage 2 Hypertension Than the General Public: A Cross Sectional Study,” was presented at AHA Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions.

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