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Blood pressure levels in elderly people strongly correlate with outdoor temperature, with higher blood pressure levels – and rates of hypertension - recorded in the winter than in the summer, researchers have found.
The teams says that more careful monitoring during periods of extreme temperatures could help alleviate the consequences of blood pressure variations in elderly people.
“Seasonal variations of blood pressure–related diseases have been described in several populations,” explain Dr Annick Alpérovitch, from the Institut National de la Santé et de la Récherche Médicale in Paris, France, and colleagues.
But they add: “Few studies have examined the seasonal variations of blood pressure in the elderly, a segment of the population particularly exposed to vascular diseases.”
To investigate, the researchers assessed the relationship between seasonal temperatures and blood pressure in 8801 elderly people, aged 65 years and older, from three cities in France.
The participants' blood pressure levels were measured at the start of the study in 1999 and again around 2 years later. Outdoor temperatures on the day of measurement were obtained from local weather offices.
The researchers found that both diastolic and systolic blood pressure levels differed significantly across the four seasons and across the distributions of outdoor temperatures. Indeed, the average systolic blood pressure was 5 mmHg higher in winter than in summer.
Furthermore, hypertension was detected in 33% of participants during winter compared with just 24% of participants during summer.
On average, each individual's blood pressure decreased between the initial and follow-up measurements, and this decrease was also strongly linked with outdoor temperature. “The higher the temperature at follow-up compared with baseline [initial measurement], the greater the decrease in blood pressure," the researchers write.
Dr Alpérovitch and team conclude in the Archives of Internal Medicine: “Outdoor temperature and blood pressure are strongly correlated in the elderly, especially in those 80 years or older.”
They add: “Because the risk of stroke or aneurysmal rupture is highest in the elderly, improved protection against these diseases by close monitoring of blood pressure and antihypertensive medication when outdoor temperature is very low could be considered.
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