Background: Current definitions of hypertension are based on levels of systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP), but not on pulse pressure (PP). We examined whether PP adds useful information for predicting coronary heart disease (CHD) in the population-based Framingham Heart Study.
Methods and results: We studied 1924 men and women between 50 and 79 years of age at baseline with no clinical evidence of CHD and not taking antihypertensive drug therapy. Cox regression, adjusted for age, sex, and other risk factors, was used to assess the relations between blood pressure components and CHD risk over a 20-year follow-up. The association with CHD risk was positive for SBP, DBP, and PP, considering each pressure individually; of the 3, PP yielded the largest chi(2) statistic. When SBP and DBP were jointly entered into the multivariable model, the association with CHD risk was positive for SBP (HR, 1.22; 95% CI, 1.15 to 1.30) and negative for DBP (HR, 0. 86; 95% CI, 0.75 to 0.98). Four subgroups were defined according to SBP levels (<120, 120 to 139, 140 to 159, and >/=160 mm Hg). Within each subgroup, the association with CHD risk was negative for DBP and positive for PP. A cross-classification of SBP-DBP levels confirmed these results.
Conclusions: In the middle-aged and elderly, CHD risk increased with lower DBP at any level of SBP>/=120 mm Hg, suggesting that higher PP was an important component of risk. Neither SBP nor DBP was superior to PP in predicting CHD risk.