WELLINGTON, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- People at risk of potentially fatal high blood pressure by age 38 can be identified in childhood, according to a New Zealand study out Friday.
High blood pressure, commonly treated in middle and old age, was described as a "silent killer" because most people were unaware of having the condition, which puts them at greater risk of heart disease, said University of Otago researchers.
The findings were the latest to emerge from the Dunedin Study, which has tracked more than 1,000 people born in the South Island city of Dunedin in 1972-3 from birth to the present.
Using blood pressure information collected from the ages of 7 to 38 years, researchers found that more than a third of them were at risk of developing clinically high blood pressure levels by early mid-life.
Lead author Dr Reremoana Theodore said the team was also able to identify several factors in early life that increased the odds of being in a high-risk blood pressure group.
"These included being male, having a family history of high blood pressure, being first born and being born lower birth weight. This new information is useful for screening purposes to help clinicians identify young people who may develop high blood pressure later in adulthood," Theodore said in a statement.
The study also showed that having a higher body mass index a measure of overweight and obesity and cigarette smoking were associated with increasing blood pressure levels over time, especially for individuals in the higher blood pressure groups.
Those individuals identified as having higher blood pressure were also more likely to have other health problems by age 38, including higher blood cholesterol levels.
"Our findings can be used to inform early detection, targeted prevention and/or intervention to help reduce the burden associated with this silent killer," Theodore said.
Professor Richie Poulton said in the statement that encouraging healthy lifestyles early in life might help to lower blood pressure levels over time.