Blood Pressure: Which Number Is Most Important?

Which number is most important in a blood pressure reading — the top (systolic) number or the bottom (diastolic) number?

For years, we’ve been told the bottom number is the most critical. After all, it represents the pressure being exerted between beats — while your heart is at rest.

One of the first things we can learn from the JNC 7 Report, though, is that — for people over 50 — an elevated top number presents the biggest risk.

Here’s that excerpt:

“In persons older than 50 years, systolic blood pressure greater than 140 mmHg is a much more important cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor than diastolic blood pressure.”

Blood Pressure - which number means most?

I’ve heard people say, “My upper number is high, but my lower number is under 80, so I’m doing fine. That’s a dangerous attitude. The higher above the safe level your blood pressure goes, the greater is your risk for stroke or cardiovascular disease.

The good news is that the opposite applies too: when your blood pressure drops down into the safe zone, your risk of stroke (and heart attack) also decreases.

I’ve found a way to get and keep my blood pressure down. My aim here is to help you do the same.

— Don

Read: Blood Pressure: How High Is Too High?


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