From working out regularly to maintaining a balanced diet, many of our most important lifestyle decisions are taken to keep our blood pressure in check (even if we don’t suffer from high or low BP). For most of us, however, that’s where the preventive measures seem to come to an end. Researchers have now revealed another step we can all take to avoid hypertension, and it’s as simple as keeping our homes a little warmer!
In a study published in the Journal of Hypertension in August 2018, the researchers used data from the Health Survey for England to identify their subjects. After an initial interview on general health and lifestyle factors, nurses followed up by visiting 4,659 participants in their homes to measure their blood pressure and to take an indoor temperature reading in their living room.
If you like to keep the temperature in your house quite low, you might want to pay attention. The researchers found that every 1°C decrease in indoor temperature was associated with rises of 0.48 mmHg in systolic blood pressure and 0.45 mmHg in diastolic blood pressure. Keeping in mind factors such as social deprivation and outdoor temperature, they found that average systolic and diastolic blood pressure were 126.64 mmHg and 74.52 mmHg for people in the coolest homes in the study. In contrast, people in the warmest homes recorded an average of 121.12 mmHg and 70.51 mmHg.
The researchers also found that the effect of indoor temperature on blood pressure was stronger among people who do not exercise regularly. This suggests that physical activity could play an important role in mitigating the risk of living in a cool environment and that people who do not exercise regularly need to make extra efforts to stay warm in order to manage their blood pressure.
"Our research has helped to explain the higher rates of hypertension, as well as potential increases in deaths from stroke and heart disease, in the winter months, suggesting indoor temperatures should be taken more seriously in diagnosis and treatment decisions and in public health messages," said senior author Dr Stephen Jivraj in a press release.
While the study did not identify a threshold for a warm enough home, the researchers suggest that keeping living rooms to at least 21°C could be advisable for general health. So, in the pursuit of maintaining a healthy blood pressure, it turns out investing in heating appliances could be a sensible decision!