HCA Midwest Health - January 30, 2018

For 14 percent of American adults, high blood pressure just became a new reality.

In 2017, an American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force released new guidelines that lowered the blood pressure (BP) reading classified as "hypertension" or high blood pressure from 140/90 to 130/80. That means nearly half of Americans are now considered to have high blood pressure, which left unmanaged, can lead to many health problems, including heart disease and stroke.

But doctors say don't panic if you are among those newly classified as having high blood pressure. Most will be able to reduce or prevent high blood pressure-related issues through lifestyle changes, primarily diet and exercise.

The New Guidelines

Category Systolic   Diastolic The top (systolic) number tells how much pressure the blood is exerting in the arteries when your heart beats. The diastolic tells the pressure between beats.
Normal <120 and <80 Healthy lifestyles are encouraged to stay within a normal range.
Elevated 120-129 and <80 Your doctor will likely recommend lifestyle changes to control an elevated BP.
Hypertension Stage 1 130-139 or 80-89 This range is newly considered high BP, or hypertension. With no other heart disease or stroke risk factors, treatment recommendations are generally lifestyle changes with diet and exercise the most effective.
Hypertension Stage 2 140 or higher or 90 or higher Lifestyle changes and a combination of blood pressure medicines prescribed by your physician, along with more frequent follow-up, are generally recommended at this stage.
Hypertensive Crisis Higher than 180 and/or Higher than 120 Those experiencing blood pressures this high should immediately call or see their doctor.

What if I think I might have high blood pressure under the new guidelines?

Learning you have high blood pressure can be scary, so talking with your doctor is an important first step. He or she will determine whether you have any other risk factors for heart disease or stroke before deciding on a treatment plan. Because the guidelines emphasize the importance of accurate, consistent at-home monitoring, it's a good idea to invest in a quality blood pressure monitor for your home. As far as treatments, the doctor will most likely recommend the following lifestyle steps before or with any medications:

  • Losing Weight -- maintaining the normal body weight for your age and height
  • DASH Eating Plan -- A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low in fat
  • Reducing sodium -- to less than 1500 mg per day
  • Physical activity -- Aerobic exercise for at least one-and-a-half to two- and- a half hours/week
  • Limited alcohol -- no more than two drinks a day for a man and one a day for a woman.

Your doctor can tell you if your condition will require any medications, along with how to use them and any potential side effects. Remember, alarming as it may sound, high blood pressure is generally a very controllable condition.

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