You can’t go very far these days without hearing about blood pressure. It’s a big health concern, especially for older people and African Americans. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) predisposes you to a raft of serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and erectile dysfunction. You can reduce your risk of hypertension by making healthy lifestyle choices. Such choices include increasing your daily physical exercise, improving your diet, and quitting smoking. Drug therapies are also available.
First a little background on those blood pressure numbers. Let’s assume that you’re told that your blood pressure is 140 over 90. The first of those numbers (the bigger one) is called systolic blood pressure. It measures the pressure in the main artery in your upper arm when your heart beats. The second number (the smaller one) is called diastolic blood pressure. It measures the pressure in the artery in your upper arm between heart beats, in other words, when your heart is “resting.” That accounts for the first (or top) number being larger than the second (or bottom) number.
The conventional view is that a blood pressure of 120/80 is “good.” Somewhat lower blood pressure (for example, 115/70), is probably even better. Higher blood pressure is probably worse. The conventional view is that blood pressure greater than 140/90 is “high.” If yours is that high, your doctor would probably suggest that you do something to lower it.
Researchers with the SPRINT Research Group made the evening news this past year. The researchers stopped a randomized, controlled trial that investigated the benefits of reducing systolic blood pressure of 130 or higher to 120 for people over 50 years of age and without diabetes. People in the treatment group were given drugs to lower their blood pressure, while people in the control group received their usual care. The risk for people in the treatment group for a combination of adverse outcomes, including heart attack, other heart problems, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease was 25% lower than for people in the control group. In addition, researchers found that death from any cause for people in the treatment group was 27% lower than for people in the control group. On the negative side, people in the treatment group experienced more adverse events than those in the control group.
The research suggests that people with systolic blood pressure readings above 130 may enjoy better health if they reduce their systolic blood pressure to 120. If your systolic blood pressure is greater than 130, I suggest that you check with your doctor to see if it’s advisable for you to lower it.
While this study used drugs to reduce blood pressure, you can accomplish the same result by making healthy lifestyle choices. Three excellent choices include increasing your daily physical exercise, improving your diet, and quitting smoking. A daily 30-minute brisk walk after eating a healthy dinner is a great way to help reduce your blood pressure, improve your cardiovascular health, and exercise your dog (who looks pleadingly at you).