Study re-examines blood pressure treatment point

While last week’s story about the effectiveness of a hypertension drug gives new hope to many, another medical study is questioning the current medical wisdom about blood pressure: all adults with systolic blood pressures over 140 mm Hg should be getting anti-hypertensive therapy. Systolic pressure is the first number in your reading, and describes the peak of pressure in major arteries as your heart beats.

"Widespread clinical adherence to the ‘140 mm Hg rule’ may mean that a substantial number of people who have no increased risk may (needlessly) receive treatment, especially the elderly," write Dr. Sidney Port and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles. Their findings are published in the January 15 issue of The Lancet.

The study’s findings may have broad implications, since it is estimated that about one in every five men and women over the age of 55 have systolic blood pressures above 140. Of course, many have changed their diet and/or started taking medication to lower their blood pressure.

The study’s authors based their conclusions on an intense analysis of data from the famous Framingham study, and zeroed in othe relationship between systolic blood pressure and cardiovascular health, at certain points in the lifespan. They concluded that the risk of death did not necessarily rise in with increases in systolic pressure, but varied with the person’s sex and age.

The study’s authors emphasize very strongly that no one should throw out their medication or abandon their diet just yet. As always, the best bet is to pay a visit to your own doctor, as an informed consumer, and consult with them on your own particular case.