Better Blood Pressure, Longer Life?
Study: Normal Midlife Blood Pressure Lengthened Life by 5 Years
June 28, 2005 -- Controlling blood pressure may lengthen life and keep heart
That may sound familiar. Now, researchers are driving the message home.
Men and women with normal blood pressure at age 50 lived five more years
than those with higher blood pressure. They also avoided heart disease for a
So say Oscar Franco, MD, DSc, and colleagues in the journal
Hypertension. Franco is a scientific researcher in the University of
Rotterdam's public health department.
Why Blood Pressure Matters
You could have high blood pressure and not know it. Lots of people do.
About one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure. But nearly a third
of them don't know it, says the American Heart Association (AHA).
Blacks are especially hit hard. More than 40% of black U.S. adults have high
blood pressure. It often starts younger and is more severe for them compared
with other races, says the AHA.
High blood pressure raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, heart failure,
and kidney failure.
But the complications caused by high blood pressure can be avoided by
treating the disease. A healthy diet, stress control, and an active, nonsmoking
lifestyle are important. Some people may also need help from medicine.
High blood pressure does its damage quietly. It's easily flagged by a quick,
The test yields two numbers. The "top" number is called systolic
blood pressure, which measures the pressure on blood vessel walls when the
heart beats. Systolic pressure may be more important as one begins to age. The
association between complications due to high blood pressure and high blood
pressure is continuous -- the higher the blood pressure, the higher the risk of
The "bottom" number is diastolic blood pressure -- the pressure on
blood vessel walls in between beats.
The AHA's standards for adults are:
- Normal: Less than 120/80
- Borderline (prehypertension): 120-139/80-89
- High: 140/90 or higher
Latest Blood Pressure Study
Franco studied data from more than 3,100 people who were 50 years old.
They were tracked for up to 46 years. They got medical checkups every other
year as part of the large Framingham Heart Study.
Their other health records were also noted. So were hospitalizations and
Cholesterol and physical activity levels weren't always known. Other risk
factors were considered. Those included smoking status, age, sex, body mass
index (BMI), and education.
Less Time With Heart Disease
People with normal blood pressure didn't just live longer. They also spent
fewer years with poor heart health.
Men with normal blood pressure lived seven more years without heart disease
than those with high blood pressure. They spent two fewer years of their life
with heart disease.
Women had similar benefits, say the researchers.
As blood pressure levels rose above normal, so did the risk of heart
disease, heart attack, and stroke, they write.