High blood pressure and high resting heart rate in male teens could increase the risk of psychiatric disorders in their adulthood, reports a recent study.

Autonomic nervous system that controls the inner functions of the body regulates the resting heart rate and fluctuations in blood pressure. However, the previous studies that dealt with association between autonomic nervous system and psychiatric disorders in patients did not yield consistent results.

Meanwhile, a team of researchers from the University of Helsinki, Finland analyzed data of more than 1 million Swedish men, with a mean age of 18 years, recorded at military conscription between 1969 and 2010. The team led by Antti Latvala examined the link between cardiac autonomic functions in late teens and psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety disorders in men.

It was observed after analyzing around 45-years of follow-up data that elevated resting heart rate of over 82 beats per minute in late teens was associated with 69 percent higher risk of OCD, 21 percent elevated risk of schizophrenia and 18 percent increased risk of anxiety disorders when compared to individuals that had resting heart rate lesser than 62 beats per minute.

As far as blood pressure is concerned, there was a 30 to 40 percent increased risk of OCD in men that had diastolic blood pressure higher than 77 mm Hg than men with diastolic blood pressure lesser than 60 mm Hg.

In contrast, men with low resting heart rate and low blood pressure exhibited problems like violent behavior and substance use disorder.

Dr. Victor Fornari, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital who was not involved in the study noted that it is sensible to believe that a person's psychiatric illness could be related to irregularity in the functions of autonomic nervous system. 

Dr. Matthew Lorber, acting director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital said that the base heart rate and blood pressure in people with psychiatric disorder are generally elevated which in turn could be an indication of impending mental disorders.

The researchers also clarified that it is not certain yet whether the increased heart rate and blood pressure result in psychiatric disorders or the heart rate and blood pressure are the early symptoms of existing mental problems.

"These associations should be confirmed in other longitudinal studies, and the underlying mechanisms should be studied with more detailed measures of autonomic functioning and designs that can more clearly elucidate causal processes," concluded the study published in JAMA Psychiatry on Oct. 26.

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