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Last Updated: Friday, 20 April 2007, 07:52 GMT 08:52 UK
Modern life puts stress on heart
Stressed man
Stress is thought to have a big impact on the body
The stress of everyday life threatens to fuel an epidemic of cardiovascular disease, a report warns.

The study says high blood pressure is rife, and implicates modern, frantic lifestyles, warning many under-estimate the problem at their peril.

The team of international experts warns that one in four adults already has the condition - but if nothing is done that figure could rise by 60% over 20 years.

The study was unveiled at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Can severely damage major organs, and lead to heart attacks, kidney disease and dementia
A major reason for failure to control it is the refusal of up to 50% of patients to take prescribed medication and stick to recommended lifestyle changes
Risk factors include smoking, high intake of salt and fat, excessive alcohol intake, and obesity

The researchers say much more work is needed to tackle high blood pressure - not least a switch to healthier, less hectic lifestyles.

They warn that unless people modify their lifestyles, and diagnosis and treatment improve, recent gains in treating cardiovascular disease could be reversed.

They report says that every year, high blood pressure is implicated in an estimated 7.1 million deaths worldwide.

The problem is growing most rapidly in emerging countries with westernised economies, such as Brazil, China, India, Russia, Turkey and the Central European states.

Economic impact

Researcher Dr Panos Kanavos, of the London School of Economics, said it was wrong to think that high blood pressure only affected older people.

He said: "Uncontrolled high blood pressure among people in their 30s, 40s and 50s will inevitably lead to an increase in cardiovascular disease and stroke that will strike down men and women at the height of their earning power, potentially turning them from drivers of economic growth and sources of public revenues to long-term recipients of extensive social benefits with increased healthcare needs."

Dr Kanavos called for a concerted public policy effort aimed at earlier hypertension diagnosis, and tackling its underlying causes.

June Davison, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation said it was clear that high blood pressure was a major risk factor for developing heart disease.

"For some people, being under constant stress can contribute to developing high blood pressure.

"Stress can also affect your lifestyle, and may lead to unhealthy habits such as smoking, eating a poor diet, drinking too much alcohol and not getting enough exercise - adding to your risk of developing heart problems.

"It is important to identify the things that cause you stress and look at how you may deal with stressful situations.

"Making changes to your lifestyle such taking regular exercise can help you cope with stress."

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