Scientists at the Catholic University of Korea in Seoul, South Korea — with other institutions — have now assessed the associations between fluctuations in some certain types of health measurement and cardiovascular health outcomes.
Essentially, the investigators wanted to see whether or not high variability of these health measurements would be good predictors of heart problems and negative cardiovascular events, such as stroke.
Their findings now appear in the journal Circulation.
Increased risk of early death
In the recent study, the investigators analyzed health data collected from 6,748,773 people with no history of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart attacks at the beginning of the study. This information was provided by the Korean National Health Insurance system.
All those involved with this study underwent at least three different health checkups in 2005–2012. Some of the information recorded during these examinations included body weight, systolic blood pressure, cholesterol, and fasting blood sugar.
For the first time, the authors concluded that high fluctuations in the measurements of these factors was associated with a negative impact on cardiovascular health.
Also, they go on, if a person has high variability of more than one of these, their cardiovascular risk may be further heightened.
Compared with people with stable measurements across an average period of 5.5 years, those who scored the highest variability on all risk factors had a 127 percent higher risk of all-cause death, were 43 percent more likely to experience a heart attack, and had a 41 percent higher risk of stroke.
Such fluctuations in the measurements under analysis can be the result of either negative changes or positive changes, the researchers note.
All fluctuations appear to heighten risk
For this reason, they also decided to separately assess the effect of the changes on people whose measurements had either improved or worsened by over 5 percent. The team found that, in both cases, high variability was linked to a heightened risk of all-cause death.
“Healthcare providers should pay attention to the variability in measurements of a patient’s blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels as well as body weight,” urges senior study author Dr. Seung-Hwan Lee.
“Trying to stabilize these measurements may be an important step in helping them improve their health,” he adds.
Nevertheless, the researchers emphasize that their study was of an observational nature, meaning that they cannot readily conclude that there is a causal relationship between the fluctuations and the risk of death and cardiovascular events.
Furthermore, they admit that they did not look into the causes behind the fluctuating body weight, cholesterol, blood sugar, or blood pressure.
Also, as Dr. Lee points out, “It is not certain whether these results from Korea would apply to the United States.”
“However, several previous studies on variability were performed in other populations, suggesting that it is likely to be a common phenomenon.”
Dr. Seung-Hwan Lee