ANCHOR LEAD: IS THE TOP NUMBER THE ONLY IMPORTANT ONE IN BLOOD PRESSURE? ELIZABETH TRACEY REPORTS
Blood pressure is reported as two numbers. The top, higher number is the systolic number- that’s an estimate of the pressure in the heart, and the bottom number is the diastolic pressure, or the residual pressure when the heart is between beats. Now a new study from the Lancet contends that only the top number is important. Rick Lange, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins, comments.
LANGE: As we age the upper number goes up, so by the time Americans reach the age of 80, about 85% of us will have high blood pressure, the upper number being high. As we age the bottom number actually gets lower, so when we look at high blood pressure in older individuals, that is, individuals over the age of 50, they frequently have systolic high blood pressure, but the lower number ends up being normal or even low, so in individuals over the age of 50 it’s the upper number that ends up being important. :28
Just knowing the top number would be easier to remember, also. I’m Elizabeth Tracey reporting.