While we may not all be pathology proficient, overwhelmingly we do take or record blood pressure, right? It’s such an easy but essential inroad to understand something more about patients’ cardiovascular system, and indeed their nervous system, when prone to the so-called ‘white-coat syndrome’. And it never fails to amaze me how the ‘numbers’ are so abstract and cryptic to the average patient. They’ll tell you things about previous BP readings like, ‘it’s normally fine I think, you know, like a 40 and maybe a 160, does that sound right? Ahhhhh…not quite. But of course these two numbers are not cryptic to us. And like all patient results, rather than our response being a simple, binary, GOOD/BAD one, we should be asking ourselves: What does this actually mean? What is it telling me?
Consequently, I’ve been interested in the blood pressure battle going on in America. Having traditionally placed the greater significance on a patient’s systolic pressure with comparatively little attention paid to the diastole, there have been lots of ruffled feathers following the redefined cut off for hypertension, which now flags any diastolic pressure over 80mmHg.
An unhealthy high systole of course is undeniably the most meaningful in terms of short term cardiovascular consequences and we are in no doubt that lowering this is critical for risk reduction BUT a new longitudinal study of over 13,000 UK citizens just published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, suggests that perhaps patients’ high or high-normal diastole in mid-life was in fact the earliest warning sign of poor cardiovascular health in the future. This comprehensive study followed participants for 8.5 years and essentially found that a rise in diastole in their mid-life (ahem, that’s our 40-50s 🙄) predicted the progression of arterial stiffness more strongly than any other measure. Additionally, while diastolic blood pressure tends to decrease as we move into our 6th decade and beyond, those individuals in mid-life with higher DBP –> more arterial stiffness were same people in whom their DBP drops the most significantly later in life. What a guise!! So, in a nutshell this substantial study teaches us:
“Prevention of arterial stiffening and the associated transition to a late-life hypertensive phenotype of falling diastolic BP is likely to depend on effective control of midlife diastolic
BP in particular.”
Fortunately, the people we see are more in their mid- than late-life, which this new understanding speaks directly to, presenting the greatest window of opportunity for prevention in terms of modifiable risks for chronic disease, especially CVD, dementia and renal disease which arterial stiffness is such a major risk for. This extraordinary separate longitudinal study following individuals born in 1946 also suggests mid-life BP(both systole & diastole) is the major modifiable factor for later brain volume, integrity and function. Maybe we need to keep our eyes on that lower figure and our ears more closely peeled to hear what in fact it’s telling us 😊
Have you also heard what’s totally NEW! for 2020 – Our Patient Pathology Manager!!
Increasingly our patients are coming armed with lab results and this cumulative data helps us to clearly see their ‘norms’ (as opposed to textbook ones) and therefore be alert to any changes. However, results from different labs at different times, and even the same lab, are unlikely to be presented side by side for easy comparison. They certainly don’t come with all the important information about what was happening for that patient at each time point – important details pertaining to the blood collection itself (fasting, inflamed etc) which can profoundly alter results or the broader context: menstruating, breastfeeding, losing weight, on meds and supplements. The Patient Pathology Manager retains all the results for you, including the critical contextual elements, helping you to keep more accurate records to make the most correct interpretation. It also assists you to monitor changes related to various interventions.
Previously, this tool has only ever been available to clinicians who participate in Group Mentoring but due to frequent requests for access, we thought it was time to share this great tool for those wanting a foot up with some better systems in their practice.