New Blood Pressure Guidelines

New Blood Pressure Guidelines

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in every 3 American adults has high blood pressure. Without treatment, uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure) can lead to other serious health concerns, including stroke, heart and vision problems, and kid-ney failure.

But what do doctors consider high anyway? The American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology and other leading health organizations recently lowered the definitions of normal, elevated and high blood pressure.

Breaking Down the New High Blood Pressure Numbers

Because they significantly increased the number of people diagnosed with hypertension, the new guidelines might seem like bad news. But the reality is, they should be viewed as a wake-up call. Greater awareness and earlier treatment stand to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Blood Pressure Category Systolic mmHG (top number) Diastolic mmHG (bottom number
Normal Less than 120 and Less than 80
Elevated 120 to 129 and Less than 80
High Blood Pressure (stage 1) 130 to 139 or 80 to 89
High Blood Pressure (stage 2) 140 or higher or 90 or higher
High Blood Pressure Emergency (see doctor right away) Above 180 or Above 120

Knowing Your Numbers

People with hypertension often feel fine for years before symptoms appear, which is why this disease is known as the “silent killer,” and why it’s important to visit your doctor regularly to have your blood pressure checked. Your provider may also recommend monitoring your blood pressure at home.

Healthy Life, Healthy Blood Pressure

Living a healthy lifestyle can make a profound difference on blood pressure. That means:

  • Losing weight. If you’re overweight, shedding extra pounds could help your blood pressure drop from five to 20 points for every 20 pounds lost.
  • Working out. Aim for 30 minutes of activity a day on most days of the week. As always, talk to your doctor before beginning any new workout regimen, and remember, some exercise is al-ways better than no exercise.
  • Quitting smoking. Smoking is a top risk factor for high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
  • Drinking less alcohol. More than two alcoholic drinks per day has been associated with a high-er incidence of hypertension.
  • Reducing salt intake. Most Americans should consume less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day. If your blood pressure is too high, you should consume even less salt.
  • Eating right. Eat well-balanced meals that are rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat protein sources. The DASH diet may be particularly healthful for people with high blood pressure.
  • Lowering stress. Although there isn’t a proven link between stress and high blood pressure (and/or heart disease), it does play a role in our general wellness. When you can learn to be more mindful about managing your stress levels, you will improve your overall health.

Depending on the stage of your hypertension, your doctor may also prescribe certain medica-tions to lower your blood pressure. You should take these medications every day, exactly as prescribed.

  • Christopher S. Howell, MD

    Dr. Chris Howell is a board certified internal medicine physician. He earned his medical degree from the University of Michigan Medical School and completed residency at the U-M Hospitals & Health Centers.

    Dr. Howell enjoys living in West Michigan with his young family and spending time working on his 100-year-old home. He sees adult patients at Lakeshore Health Partners – Internal Medicine in Holland, MI. where he enjoys helping them set and achieve their lifestyle improvement goals.

Share this Post