Monday, June 9, 2014

Million Hearts Colorado: Heart Risks Depend on Which Blood Pressure Number is High

HealthDay News -- When you have high blood pressure, exactly what type of increased heart risk you face may be determined by which number in your blood pressure reading is high, new research shows.

In a blood pressure reading, systolic pressure is the top number and diastolic pressure is the bottom number.

People with higher systolic blood pressure had a greater risk of bleeding strokes and stable angina (chest pain), while those with higher diastolic blood pressure were more likely to be diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is an overstretched, weakened section in the body's main artery, that occurs in the belly. If it bursts, it can cause serious bleeding and even death.

"Our findings do not support the widely held assumptions that systolic and diastolic pressure have similar strong associations with the occurrence of all cardiovascular [heart] diseases across a wide age range," lead investigator Dr. Eleni Rapsomaniki, from The Farr Institute for Health Informatics Research in London, England, said in a journal news release.

The researchers also found that despite modern medications, people with high blood pressure, or "hypertension," still face greater lifetime health risks. For example, a 30-year-old with high blood pressure has a 63 percent lifetime risk of developing heart disease, compared with 46 percent for a person with normal blood pressure.

Also, someone with high blood pressure would typically develop heart disease five years sooner than someone with normal blood pressure, the study authors noted.

In a commentary accompanying the study, Thomas Kahan, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said that although the effectiveness of blood pressure-lowering drugs is undisputed, "observational studies suggest that few patients reach target blood pressure. Several steps therefore need to be taken to improve antihypertensive treatment and control."

Those steps include assessing patients' heart risks more carefully, pushing patients to stick with their medication schedules, expanding the use of home blood pressure monitoring and more aggressive treatment of those with tough-to-treat high blood pressure.

High blood pressure management is a key strategy of the  Million Hearts Initiative, an effort to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over five years.  Colorado participates in this initiative and you can too. Be one in a million - make your commitment and pledge today.

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