Is Your “Normal Blood Pressure” Too High?

The American Heart Association has established guidelines for “normal blood pressure”, guidelines that we should try to follow in order to have a healthy heart. But, according to a new study, “normal” may not be good enough to stave off the risk of cardiovascular disease. Pretty scary, right?

The Science

A team of researchers published the results of a meta-analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They examined 42 clinical trials, looking at data from more than 144,000 patients from around the United States. All of the studies examined mortality risks from hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.

The Results

After examining all of the data, they found that those who lowered their blood pressure MORE than the recommended guidelines had the lowest mortality risk. The current guidelines of 140 mmHg for systolic blood pressure helped to reduce cardiovascular disease, but going a step further may continue to decrease mortality risk. Those who lowered their blood pressure to 120 to 124 mmHg had the lowest risk of dying of any cause, and their cardiovascular systems were the most protected. Their risk of dying from any cause was 27% lower than those over 130 mmHg, and they had a 29% lower chance of developing heart disease.

The Outcome

What this study proves is that meeting the current blood pressure guidelines may not be enough to protect your heart from disease. Given the high rates of cardiovascular disorders in the U.S., it’s clear that we need to take extra steps to prevent and treat heart problems. Just meeting the minimum might not suffice to combat poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and bad health habits (like smoking or overdrinking). The only way to really protect yourself from heart disease is to take it very seriously and make a concerted effort to go above and beyond the health recommendations.

What To Do: Diet

Your diet is one of the primary contributors to high blood pressure. A diet high in trans fats and hydrogenated oils leads to high cholesterol levels, which causes arterial blockage and narrowing. To reduce your risk of cardiovascular disorders, eliminate all trans fats and hydrogenated fats from your diet. Cut back on saturated fat, and drastically limit the amount of carbs (especially empty and simple carbs) you eat per day. Focus on a diet that is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, with your primary food sources plant-based: veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. Eat plenty of plant-based fats and proteins as well!

What To Do: Exercise

To fight heart disease, you have to get off the couch and hit the gym or running track! The more you move around, the more fat you burn and the lower your cholesterol levels. Your heart is a muscle that needs strengthening in order to remain strong. Exercise is the #1 factor to lowering your cardiovascular disease risk. Make it a point to spend at least 150 minutes a week engaged in moderate to vigorous exercise!

What To Do: Lifestyle

The way you live is just as important as what you eat and how much you move. Smoking contributes to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and can increase the chances of arterial plaque buildup. Overdrinking can also raise your cholesterol and blood pressure. Spending too much time sitting down will lead to reduced body function, increasing your chance of heart disease. Be active, eliminate unhealthy choices, and make it a point to eat healthy. Getting a full night of rest will also help to improve your cardiovascular health overall.

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