Scientists investigate link between smoking and high blood pressure

A physician measures a patient's blood pressure in a medical setting.

Smoking and high blood pressure are associated with increased risks for cardiovascular disease. But what impact does smoking have on blood pressure?

Researchers put this question to the test by partnering with 4,786 young Black and white adults for 30 years. The key findings were that compared to adults who never smoked, adults who regularly smoked had greater pulse pressure. Pulse pressure measures the difference between systolic blood pressure, the top number, and diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number. In normal blood pressure readings of 120/80 mm Hg, a 40 mm Hg difference falls into a healthy 40-60 mm Hg range. Pulse pressure typically increases after adults turn 60.

The researchers note these findings, which were more pronounced among women, may be of interest to physicians. For example, doctors could monitor the pulse pressure of patients at risk for cardiovascular disease, but earlier in life. The authors also shared future topics to investigate – such as differences in aging and pulse pressure among current and never smokers, while examining how these associations may contribute to cardiovascular disease risk.

This Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association and was supported by the NHLBI.