New research has established a connection between high blood pressure (BP) while lying flat on one’s back and an elevated risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, or premature death.
The study defines high BP as having both top and bottom blood pressure readings greater than or equal to 130/80 mm Hg.
The autonomic nervous system typically regulates blood pressure across various body positions. However, the researchers from Harvard Medical School in Boston highlight that gravitational effects may lead to blood pooling when individuals are seated or standing, and the body sometimes struggles to effectively regulate blood pressure while in different positions, including lying down.
Individuals with high BP while seated and supine exhibited a 1.6 times higher risk of developing coronary heart disease, sk of heart failure, a 1.86 times higher risk of stroke, a 1.43 times higher risk of overall prea 1.83 times higher rimature death, and a 2.18 times higher risk of dying from coronary heart disease.
Differences in blood pressure medication use did not mitigate these increased risks
Interestingly, participants with high BP while supine but not while seated faced similar heightened risks as those with high blood pressure in both seated and supine positions.
The researchers noted that differences in blood pressure medication use did not mitigate these increased risks in either group.
Lead study author Duc M. Giao, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, emphasized, “If blood pressure is only measured while people are seated upright, cardiovascular disease risk may be missed if not measured also while they are lying supine on their backs. Our findings suggest people with known risk factors for heart disease and stroke may benefit from having their blood pressure checked while lying flat on their backs.”
To investigate the correlation between body position, blood pressure, and heart health risk, the research team analyzed health data for 11,369 adults. These participants had their blood pressure measured briefly while lying down at a clinic and were subsequently tracked for an average of 25 to 28 years. The results indicated that 16 per cent of participants who did not exhibit high BP while seated had elevated BP levels while lying flat on their backs.
Giao suggested that “Efforts to manage blood pressure during daily life may help lower blood pressure while sleeping. Future research should compare supine blood pressure measurements in the clinic with overnight measurements.”
It’s worth noting that the study primarily focused on middle-aged adults at the time of enrollment, which may limit the generalizability of the findings to older populations. These findings will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension Scientific Sessions 2023, scheduled from September 7 to 10 in Boston.