Why both blood pressure numbers matter to your heart health

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When you measure your blood pressure, you get two numbers: systolic and diastolic. The systolic pressure, the upper number, shows the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.

The diastolic pressure, the lower number, indicates the pressure in your arteries between beats when your heart is resting.

Previously, it was believed that high systolic blood pressure was the main predictor of serious health issues like heart disease and stroke. This belief led doctors to focus more on the systolic number, sometimes downplaying the importance of the diastolic reading.

However, a recent study by Kaiser Permanente has challenged this view. The study analyzed over 36 million blood pressure readings from 1.3 million adults in Northern California, taken during outpatient visits between 2007 and 2016.

The researchers found that both systolic and diastolic pressures are important for predicting the risk of heart disease and stroke. While systolic pressure has a slightly greater impact, both numbers can significantly influence health outcomes.

This was true whether high blood pressure was defined using the older threshold of 140/90 mm Hg or the newer, lower threshold of 130/80 mm Hg.

This discovery supports recent changes in blood pressure guidelines, which recommend more stringent control of blood pressure, especially in patients at higher risk of heart disease.

The findings suggest that paying attention to both systolic and diastolic pressures is crucial for better health outcomes.

Both systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings are important indicators of heart health. For generally healthy people, aiming for lower blood pressure readings is beneficial.

The study, led by Alexander C. Flint, emphasizes the need to monitor and manage both numbers to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. These findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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