High Blood Pressure Belief Disproved

A new study for the first time shows that reducing systolic blood pressure below 120 does not appear to provide additional benefit for patients, as long believed in the medical community.

Carlos J. Rodriguez, MD, associate professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist, was lead author of the study—which tracked nearly 4,500 patients for 21 years for development of a cardiovascular event.

A normal blood pressure reading has typically been considered 120/80. The data showed that among people with high blood pressure, lowering the systolic level (the top number in the reading) below 120 did not further reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.

The study found that the optimal blood pressure range for the systolic level was 120-139, “which significantly reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack or heart failure,’’ Rodriguez said. “These findings suggest that you don’t need to go lower than that to have the benefits.’’

A large clinical trial under way should confirm or refute the finding; Rodriguez noted that the study he wrote with eight co-authors was not a clinical trial.