Jacek Bednarz Jr.
Factors including sex, waist size and sleep contribute to medical students having an approximately 2.4 times higher prevalence of hypertension than the general population, according to research presented at the American Heart Association Hypertension Scientific Sessions.
Using the 2017 American College of Cardiology/AHA guidelines, researchers determined that of the first and second-year medical students who were surveyed, 16.4% were prehypertensive, 29.1% had stage 1 hypertension and 17.8% had stage 2 hypertension.
“I remember some of my friends and classmates in medical school near the end of my first year complaining of gaining weight, feeling sluggish and burnout. As well, one of our professors during a lecture told a story of him being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during his time in medical school which, if I remember correctly, he attributed to poor diet and lack of exercise,” Jacek Bednarz Jr., medical student at Lincoln Memorial University, told Healio. “So, because I was seeing so many risk factors for hypertension amongst myself and my peers, I thought it would be worthwhile to measure the class’s blood pressure. When I brought the idea of surveying our class’s blood pressure to Daniel Mok, also a third-year medical student, he thought it would be worthwhile too because of the chronic stress medical students face.”
In other findings, male medical students were 13.26 times more likely (P < .001) to have hypertension than their female counterparts. Additionally, increasing waist circumference by 1 inch was associated with an 11% increase in developing stage 2 hypertension, according to the study.
“We think that the most important takeaway is that elevated blood pressure should not be something that we only associate with older individuals,” Bednarz told Healio. “Our study suggests medical students lack awareness about their own blood pressure. We should be encouraging students to regularly check their blood pressure since it is such a simple way to monitor one’s health in order to prevent future adverse health events.”
Researchers surveyed first and second-year students from the DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (n = 213; 49% women; mean age, 26 years), asking questions regarding age, sex, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, diet, aerobic exercise, mental health, social support and past medical history, followed by measurements of BP and waist circumference.
“Most students were appreciative of the study because some have not checked their own blood pressure since the physical our school requires new medical students to receive prior to enrolling,” Bednarz said. “A fraction of these students were shocked at how much higher it was, and told us they would follow up with their family doctor.”
“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,” Mariell Jessup, MD, FAHA, the AHA chief science and medical officer, said in a press release. – by Scott Buzby
Bednarz J, et al. Presentation P2059. Presented at: American Heart Association Hypertension Scientific Sessions; Sept. 5-8, 2019; New Orleans.
Disclosure: The Bednarz, Mok and Jessup report no relevant financial disclosures.