Former prison inmates are more likely to have high blood pressure than those who have never been incarcerated, says a new study.
What's more, young adults who have been incarcerated appear more likely to have left ventricular hypertrophy, an enlarging of the heart muscle that is a common consequence of hypertension, according to a report in the April 13 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
To reach the conclusion, Emily A. Wang, M.D, formerly of San Francisco General Hospital and the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues studied the association of prior incarceration with future onset of high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes and abnormal cholesterol in 4,350 individuals involved in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.
Participants were enrolled in 1985 to 1986, at ages 18 to 30, and were followed up after two, five, seven, 10, 15 and 20 years.
Of these, 288 or 7 percent of participants reported being incarcerated one year prior to or two years following their enrollment. Former inmates were more likely to have hypertension in young adulthood than those who had not been incarcerated (12 percent vs. 7 percent three to five years later), even after considering other related factors such as smoking, alcohol and drug use and family income. In addition, left ventricular hypertrophy was more common among those with a history of incarceration (2 percent vs. 0.6 percent).
"Former inmates were also more likely to lack treatment for their hypertension at the year seven examination (17 percent [former inmates] vs. 41 percent [no prior incarceration] treated) and in each of the follow-up visits during the entire 20-year duration of the CARDIA study," the authors write.
The mechanisms by which incarceration may lead to high blood pressure are not well understood, the authors note. Commonly cited factors such as drug and alcohol use, obesity and lower socioeconomic status may not entirely explain the association, since the current findings indicate an association between incarceration and hypertension after considering these factors.
ther explanations include increased hostility and stress among former inmates, which may raise hormone levels that contribute to higher blood pressure.
"Incarceration may be a cause for hypertension and cardiovascular disease, but may also present an underused opportunity for intervention and improving health and access to health care," the authors conclude.