Magazine article Science News

Even High-Normal Blood Pressure Is Too High

Magazine article Science News

Even High-Normal Blood Pressure Is Too High

Article excerpt

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, and doctors routinely recommend medication to reduce it. A new finding raises the possibility that people with blood pressure at the high end of what is considered the normal range should receive similar treatment.

Individuals with systolic pressure at or above 140 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) or diastolic blood pressure at or above 90 mmHg are considered to have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Systolic is the maximum pressure reached with each pulse of blood, and diastolic is the minimum pressure between pulses.

A study published in the Nov. 1 NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE finds an elevated risk of strokes, heart attacks, and heart failure among patients without hypertension but with systolic blood pressure between 130 and 139 mmHg or diastolic pressure between 85 and 89 mmHg.

The researchers used data from the Framingham (Mass.) Heart Study, which began in 1948 and includes thousands of participants. During initial screening for the Framingham study, researchers had recorded each subject's blood pressure and other data related to risk of heart disease. They didn't measure several factors now known to influence heart disease, such as physical activity and blood concentrations of different cholesterols.

A team led by Ramachandran S. Vasan of the Boston University School of Medicine recently analyzed data from 6,859 participants who were free of hypertension and heart disease at the initial screening. …

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