Close to 1 in 5 young adults has high blood pressure, according to a new study.
"We wanted to look at the health of young adults in America, and the first thing we looked at was blood pressure," said Kathleen Mullan Harris, a professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and the lead author of the study. "The prevalence is quite high – 19% – and we found this rather surprising," she said.
The researchers had been following 14,000 kids since 1995, recording their health from adolescence into adulthood. At their most recent check-in, researchers discovered the high rates of hypertension and found that close to 37% were obese.
Harris believes the high rates of hypertension can be attributed to the obesity epidemic, along with a diet high in sodium-packed processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle.
Harris was especially alarmed to find that most of the 24-32-year-olds in the study did not know about their high blood pressure.
"What’s especially alarming that among those measured with high blood pressure, only 25% had been told previously that they had high blood pressure," Harris said.
She explains that young adults often believe they are invincible and often are "too busy" to visit the doctor.
"Young people are thought to be relatively healthy, they’re busy building careers and families," she said. "We need to get them to see their doctors, or to check their blood pressure in a drug store, or even in a gym."
Hypertension is a huge epidemic that often doesn’t show any symptoms, until it’s too late.
"This is a sleeping epidemic," she said. "You dont feel any different even though your blood pressure is high, but it’s doing permanent damage to your brain, heart, kidneys and your eyes."