False confidence in blood pressure knowledge may harm your health

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In a study from the University of Southern California, scientists found the majority of Americans do not know the threshold for normal/healthy blood pressure—yet they are confident that they do.

Blood pressure is measured with two numbers. The top number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in our arteries when our hearts beat.

The second number is called diastolic blood pressure and measures the pressure in our arteries when our hearts are resting between beats.

According to the American Heart Association, there are five blood pressure (BP) categories:

  • Normal (BP less than 120/80 mm Hg)
  • Elevated (BP of 120-129/80 mm Hg)
  • High Blood Pressure (Stage 1 Hypertension) (130-139/80-89 mm Hg)
  • High Blood Pressure (Stage 2 Hypertension) (140 or higher/90 or higher mm Hg)
  • Hypertensive Crisis (higher than 180/higher than 120 mm Hg)

Nearly half of the adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure (hypertension).

In the long run, high blood pressure damages blood vessels, increases the risk of heart failure, and leads to other poor health outcomes, especially in patients with heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes.

High blood pressure is more common as we get older, and most people will develop blood pressure in their lifetime.

In the study, the team surveyed 6,592 U.S. adults and found almost two-thirds of adults do not know the upper limit for normal or healthy blood pressure.

While most survey participants did not correctly identify the threshold for healthy blood pressure, the team found that the majority were overly confident in their knowledge of blood pressure readings.

This false sense of confidence may be undermining their intentions to seek care for stage 1 hypertension.

Survey participants who were confident were more likely to express intentions to act on stage 2 hypertension readings, but less likely to express intentions to act on stage 1 readings compared to those who were not confident.

The team says lowering blood pressure can help people stay healthy.

Providing patients with information about blood pressure levels and behaviors and treatments they can do is an easy way to improve health, explained the researchers.

If you care about blood pressure, please read studies about a major cause of high blood pressure, and vitamin D could improve blood pressure in people with diabetes.

For more information about blood pressure, please see recent studies that black tea may strongly reduce blood pressure, and results showing these high blood pressure drugs may increase heart failure risk.

The study was conducted by Wandi Bruine de Bruin et al and published in Medical Decision Making.

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