Today I’m sharing a new article I’ve written on the topic of blood pressure.
Healthy people with blood pressures of 120-139/70-89 mm Hg are considered to have “normal” or “borderline” blood pressure. The recommended treatment for such individuals consists of “lifestyle” interventions. If these don’t work, no further treatment is recommended. But, we know from abundant actuarial and medical data that individuals with “normal” or borderline blood pressure have higher all-cause mortality rates and higher rates of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and kidney disease than their counterparts with lower blood pressure.
What should we do? It’s a hard question to answer, but it’s worth investigating if we want to live longer and healthier lives.
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Vaquez Laubry by Spengler | Image Courtesy of Uwe Diegel
If we want to live the longest and healthiest lives possible, we’ve got to delay cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, and kidney disease. It’s well known that people with sub-“normal“ blood pressures have a better chance of avoiding or delaying these diseases. I’m interested in the idea that achieving and maintaining lower than “normal” blood pressures should be part of a broader longevity strategy. This first article on blood pressure provides some background on what blood pressure is, why it matters, where “normal” comes from, and sets the stage for my argument that lower is better, which I’ll expand upon in part two.
A single bead of water formed on the outside of the pipe. I blotted it dry. It reappeared. I dried it again, but once more, the drop reappeared. Condensation, I thought. But then I realized it couldn’t be. Water condenses out of relatively warm and humid air onto a colder surface. But this wasn’t cold, it was the hot outlet pipe from my water heater. Even though I couldn’t see it, there had to be a hole. I called a plumber who confirmed my diagnosis and replaced the pipe.
This leaky pipe story demonstrates the long-term effects of trying to contain fluids that are under high pressure within narrow conduits. Loosely speaking, this is the same problem we face with a lifetime of trying to convey blood from the heart and lungs to our organs via our arteries. Over time, these vital tubes (our arteries) can become obstructed, narrowed, can stretch out, can leak, or rupture. What’s more, the heart, which must propel the blood through our arteries for decades, can become prematurely diseased if it’s forced to pump against an overly high-pressure system.
Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by our blood on the walls of our arteries. It’s traditionally measured using a cuff on the arm called a sphygmomanometer—literally, a pulse pressure meter…