Blood pressure is measured using two numbers.
The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.
A normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80 mmHg. No matter your age, you can take steps each day to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range.
In a recent study from the University of Southern Denmark, scientists found people’s age may determine which blood pressure number matters most.
Systolic blood pressure is the best way to predict future heart disease events and death, irrespective of age.
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, researchers 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 team 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 was published in Hypertension and conducted by Dr. Michael Hecht Olsen et al.
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