The New Blood Pressure Number You Should Strive For | Men's Health Magazine Australia

The New Blood Pressure Number You Should Strive For

 

 

Diagnosed with high blood pressure? For years, the standard treatment has been to cut your systolic blood pressure – the top number – to less than 140 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg).

 

But that might not be low enough to really protect your heart: reducing your blood pressure even further can add years to your life, research from the New England Journal of Medicine suggests.

In the study, people with high blood pressure who achieved the systolic target of 120 mm Hg or less were 27 per cent less likely to die of any cause over a three-year follow-up than people with high blood pressure who aimed for a systolic reading of 140 mm Hg or less.

 

They were also 38 per cent less likely to develop heart failure and 43 per cent less likely to die due to cardiovascular causes.

 

It’s not really surprising that you’re better off with lower BP, says study coauthor, epidemiologist Dr Paul K. Whelton.

 

High blood pressure means that your heart pumps blood more forcefully, which over time stretches and damages your blood vessels. Then, when fat in your blood – due to high LDL, or bad cholesterol – flows through, it gets caught in the marred vessels and begins to clump inside them.

 

This causes atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque inside your arteries, which triggers an inflammatory response throughout your body. As a result, you’re at higher risk of stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and other life-threatening conditions –  all which can lead to death well before your time.

 

 

The more you reduce your blood pressure, as long as you don’t develop low blood pressure, the better it is for your blood vessels, Whelton says. 

 

You just don’t want it to get too low. In the study, those in the lower-target BP group were also at higher risk of developing hypotension, which is defined as a drop in systolic blood pressure of at least 20 points within one minute after standing up. They were also more likely to experience side effects like fainting.

 

 
However, hypotension is preventable with careful monitoring. If your doctor thinks you’re at risk, he’ll have you regularly check your blood pressure at home and adjust your medications accordingly.

 

While the study looked at people 50 and older, Whelton believes younger guys can reap the benefits of achieving a lower systolic blood pressure, too.

 

In fact, it may even be more beneficial for young guys with high BP to lower that number, he says. More years of plaque buildup means a greater lifetime risk of a heart attack or stroke.

 

Of course, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of shooting for a lower number. 

 

For one, it’s not easy to do. And in order to get it into the optimum zone, dietary changes won’t always do the trick. Multiple meds are often needed, says Whelton. So discuss with your doctor whether adding more drugs – which increases your chances of side effects – to get there is worth the risk.

 

 

 

By Mens Health Staff

More From

Finding balance: how yoga can help you defy ageing

Finding balance: how yoga can help you defy ageing

Step into the world of wellness with Manoj Dias, your aficionado and fearless trend-chaser. In this column, we're delving deep into the hottest and obscure wellness trends and having candid conversations with pop culture icons. Our mission? Demystify wellness and bring it down to earth for all. First up, Dias recalls his first yoga class and reveals how the ancient practice can help fortify your mind and body as you age.

Isaac Humphries is unshackled

Isaac Humphries is unshackled

After coming out in November 2022, the Adelaide 36ers centre remains the only openly gay professional basketball player in the world. With the NBL's Champion Pride Round underway, Humphries reflects on his journey and the reasons why he’s playing the best basketball of his career.