blood pressure

When was the last time you were asked to sit without saying a word for five minutes before your blood pressure was measured? If your answer was "I never remember doing that," you're in good company.

Yet that is one of the many rules that medical professionals are supposed to follow when measuring your blood pressure.

You may not have had high blood pressure Sunday, but you may have it today. Even if your blood pressure hasn't changed a smidge. What's up?

The rules shifted Monday. It used to be that we encouraged people to adopt healthy behavior to keep their blood pressure down but didn't label someone as having hypertension until systolic blood pressure (the top number) exceeded 140 millimeters of mercury and/or the diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) exceeded 90 mm Hg. Lots of people watch those numbers closely.

Cutting blood pressure below the currently recommended target can significantly reduce the rate of heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and deaths, federal health officials reported Friday.

The findings come from the largest study ever conducted to examine whether reducing systolic blood pressure — the top number patients get when examined — below the currently recommended goal would be beneficial.