Altitude and hypertension
Igho Onakpoya, Rafael Perera, Carl Heneghan
15 June 2015
Research reviews & expert opinions Students
There is a controversy about the impact of altitude on blood pressure. So, will living at high altitude predispose you to high blood pressure?
To address this question, we searched four different scientific databases to identify human studies investigating the relationship between high altitude and the prevalence of hypertension in Tibet – one of the highest altitude regions of the earth with average altitude of 4500 m above sea levels. We then used statistical techniques to explore the relationships between altitude and prevalence, and to also calculate the degree of changes in the prevalence of hypertension with changing altitudes.
In total, we identified eight survey studies with a total of 16,913 Tibetan participants. The altitude in the studies was between 3000 and 4300 m, which is below the average altitude in Tibet. The prevalence of hypertension was between 23% and 56%, and there was no evidence that gender was a factor.
We observed a significant relationship between altitude and the prevalence of hypertension; indeed for every 100 m increase in altitude, there was a corresponding 2% increase in the prevalence of hypertension. In addition, we found that the socioeconomic status of participants had an influence on the rates of awareness and subsequent control and treatment of hypertension.
So when next you encounter anyone who dwells at high altitude, or has travelled to a high-altitude region, ask them if they’ve recently had their blood pressure checked.
Relationship between altitude and the prevalence of hypertension in Tibet: a systematic review.
Mingji C, Onakpoya IJ, Perera R, Ward AM, Heneghan CJ.
Heart. 2015 May 7. pii: heartjnl-2014-307158. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2014-307158