Eating just one extra meal out a week raised the odds of prehypertension by 6 percent. (Credit: iStockphoto)

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Eating out once a week may raise blood pressure

Young adults who eat meals in restaurants rather than at home have a greater risk of high blood pressure, a new study suggests.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the leading risk factor for death associated with cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that young adults with pre-hypertension, or slightly elevated blood pressure, are at very high risk of hypertension.

Eating meals in restaurants is linked to more calories and higher saturated fat and salt intake—eating patterns that are associated with high blood pressure.

Just one meal

For the study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, researchers surveyed 501 university-going young adults aged 18 to 40 years in Singapore and collected data on blood pressure, body mass index and lifestyle, including meals eaten away from home and physical activity levels.

Pre-hypertension was found in 27.4 percent of the total population, and 38 percent ate more than 12 meals away from home per week. Pre-hypertension was more prevalent in men (49 percent) than in women (9 percent)

People with pre-hypertension or hypertension were more likely to eat more meals away from home per week, have a higher mean body mass index, have lower mean physical activity levels, and be current smokers.

Even eating just one extra meal out raised the odds of prehypertension by 6 percent.

Lifestyle factors

“While there have been studies conducted in the United States and Japan to find behaviors associated with hypertension, very few have surveyed a Southeast Asian population,” says Tazeen Jafar, professor in the health services and systems program at Duke-National University of Singapore.

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“Our research plugs that gap and highlights lifestyle factors associated with pre-hypertension and hypertension that are potentially modifiable, and would be applicable to young adults globally, especially those of Asian descent.”

Clinicians can use the findings to advise young adults to modify lifestyle behaviors—and advise men that they in particular are at higher risk for pre-hypertension.

Future studies should examine the effect of lifestyle modification programs on blood pressure levels on the at-risk population found in this study. Jafar plans to lead a related intervention study on prevention of hypertension among young adults in Singapore.

Source: Duke University/National University of Singapore

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