Which blood pressure number matters most? It may depend on your age

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In a new study from the University of Southern Denmark, researchers found people’s age may determine which blood pressure number matters most.

Systolic blood pressure is the best way to predict future cardiovascular events and death, irrespective of age, according to new research.

But in younger people, diastolic blood pressure could still be important. Systolic pressure – the upper number in a blood pressure reading – measures how hard the heart pumps blood into arteries.

Diastolic – The bottom number – indicates the pressure on the arteries when the heart rests between beats.

In recent years, many medical experts shifted their focus to systolic readings when trying to determine the risk of heart problems.

In the study, the team aimed to find out more, and they looked at 26 years of data from 107,599 adults ages 19-97.

Participants didn’t start out with heart disease, but some eventually reached a “cardiovascular endpoint,” which the study defined as stroke, heart attack or death from heart disease.

The team found that for people under 50, diastolic blood pressure readings provided additional prognostic predictive information.

But the study showed systolic readings were still a strong predictor of cardiovascular risk independent of age, sex and other cardiovascular risk factors.

The results underline the importance of measuring not only the systolic but also the diastolic blood pressure, especially in individuals younger than 50.

The steam also found that mean arterial pressure was a good measure of cardiovascular risk and death at any age.

Also called MAP, it is the average pressure in a person’s arteries during one cardiac cycle, and it is calculated using both diastolic and systolic blood pressure.

Further research remains critically important in how best to identify, classify and treat high blood pressure.

According to AHA statistics, nearly half of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, which is defined as systolic blood pressure of 130 mmHg or above or diastolic blood pressure of 80 mmHg or above. But it’s not just an older person’s disease.

High blood pressure is common among younger adults, affecting more than 1 in 5 people ages 18 to 39, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The study is published in Hypertension. One author of the study is Dr. Michael Hecht Olsen.

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