Objective Hypertension is reported to be the most prevalent risk factor for cardiovascular disease in elite athletes. We aimed to review blood pressure (BP) and prevalence of hypertension in different elite athletes, and study whether there was an association between high BP and left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH).
Methods A systematic review of studies reporting BP in athletes using search strategies developed for PubMed and EMBASE, including only studies with ≥100 participants. We collected data on BP, prevalence of hypertension, LVH and methods of BP measurement.
Results Of 3723 records identified, 51 met the inclusion criteria. These included men and women (n=138 390), aged mostly between 18 and 40 years, from varied sports disciplines. Mean systolic BP varied from 109±11 to 138±7 mm Hg and mean diastolic BP from 57±12 to 92±10 mm Hg. Strength-trained athletes had higher BP than endurance-trained athletes (131.3±5.3/77.3±1.4 vs 118.6±2.8/71.8±1.2 mm Hg, p<0.05), and there was a trend towards a higher BP in athletes training ≥10 h compared with others (121.8±3.8/73.8±2.5 vs 117.6±3.3/66.8±6.9, p=0.058), but overall there was no significant difference in BP between athletes and controls. The prevalence of hypertension varied from 0% to 83%. Some studies showed an association between high BP and LVH. Measurement methods were poorly standardised.
Conclusions BP and prevalence of hypertension in athletes varied considerably partly because of variations in methodology, but type and intensity of training may contribute towards higher BP. High BP may be associated with LVH.