The claim: Trying to lower your blood pressure? Don’t kill yourself trying to get your systolic blood pressure number lower than 120, as in 120 over 90. According to a report in JAMA Internal Medicine, anything lower won’t necessarily lower your risk of heart attack, heart failure, or stroke.
The research: Researchers from Wake Forest University Medical Center monitored the systolic blood pressure in 4,480 people with hypertension (aka high blood pressure) every three years during a 21-year span to see whether a lower systolic blood pressure would be associated with lower occurrence of cardiovascular events, specifically heart attack, stroke, heart failure, angina.
"We hypothesized that lower blood pressure would be associated with fewer events, and that as the blood pressure went up, there would be more events," says Carlos Jose Rodriguez, MD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology and medicine and associate director of research at the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity at Wake Forest School of Medicine. "We found this was not the case, and that hypertensives with a blood pressure between 120-138 mmHg had the greatest benefit, and those with a blood pressure less than 120 mmHg did not have additional benefit."
What it means: "I do not think [this research] changes treatment, but it does bring into question the notion of whether lower blood pressure is better," says Rodriguez, "and it does emphasize that the greatest clinical benefit comes from getting patients below 140 mmHg."
The bottom line: There’s a notion that lower blood pressure is better, but the research in the past has not been conclusive, says Rodriguez. This study shows that treating systolic blood pressure so that it falls in a healthy range (120-138 mmHg) can lower the risk of adverse events associated with heart disease—but going any lower doesn’t necessarily help you.