For Blood Pressure, Lower is Better

Article posted in: Lifestyle

A recent study of blood pressure patients was stopped because the results were so clear and beyond doubt: When it comes to treating blood pressure, lower is better. The study had enrolled 9,000 people over the age of 50, all of whom had high blood pressure and at least one other risk factor for heart disease. The patients were split into two groups; one group worked to get its systolic blood pressure reading (the “upper” number) under 140, while the other aimed for 120. Both groups were allowed to use prescription drugs to treat the blood pressure, and both were urged to eat low-sodium diets and to exercise.

The results were striking. The group that aimed for 120 systolic had one-third fewer strokes, heart attacks and diagnoses of heart failure compared to those in the 140 group. The lower group also had 25% fewer deaths. The results were so clear and meaningful that the study was stopped so as not to put people in the higher group at risk.

What does this mean for people on weight loss programs? Because increased weight tends to lead to higher blood pressure, people trying to lose weight should consult with their doctor to be sure their blood pressure is under control, or under treatment. If your blood pressure is high, be sure to avoid excess sodium—it’s worth noting that both groups in the study were on low-sodium diets—and to avoid salty foods. Exercise is key, too. As long as your doctor says it’s okay, you should try to get at least 30 minutes a day of vigorous exercise. As the pounds come off, you should see a reduction in your blood pressure, too.