High blood pressure’s impact and new criteria for a designation of the condition are examined in Life Extension magazine’s March 2018 issue. Not so many years ago a systolic (the top number) blood pressure of 140-150 mmHg was considered normal. At that time, as well, it was common for people to die due to heart attack, stroke or kidney failure. In recent years death rates for those conditions have fallen, in part, due to the medical community’s embracing the need to manage blood pressure at lower readings.
In November 2017, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology issued new blood pressure guidelines indicating that normal systolic blood pressure should be under 120mmHG— a departure from the less stringent guidelines that had been observed.
Behind the new guideline was a 2015 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine which observed over 9000 individuals with a systolic reading of 130mmHg or higher, placing them in one of two treatment programs:
Treating the patient to keep the blood pressure at 120mmHg or lower.
Treating the patient to keep the blood pressure below 140mmHg.
After just over three years of following these patients, it was discovered that the risks of death and disease was greatly reduced in the patients whose blood pressure was targeted at 120mmHg. Patients in the 120mmHg group had a 43 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death, a 27 percent lower overall death rate and a 38 percent lower risk of heart failure than those in the 140mmHg group.
The study demonstrates that high systolic blood pressure (above 120mmHg) is a significant health problem. Fortunately, actions can be taken to lower that critical number. A good place to start: measure your own blood pressure at home using a good quality monitor, allowing you to determine the impact of behaviors on your blood pressure readings.