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Understanding Blood Pressure Guidelines

how to reduce blood pressure

High blood pressure is now even more prevalent in the US. With hopes to reduce the risks of disease, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology updated blood pressure guidelines with an emphasis on prevention.

To understand blood pressure, you need to know that the upper number is referring to systolic blood pressure and the lower number refers to diastolic blood pressure and that blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). While the guidelines have not changed for low risk individuals (less than 120 mm Hg over less than 80 mm Hg), the guidelines for diagnosing hypertension have been expanded to meet stricter criteria. Hypertension is now defined as 130 mm Hg / 80 mm Hg compared to the old standard of 140 mm Hg / 90 mm Hg. High risk consists of individuals with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart and kidney disease. Those with a 10 percent risk or greater of having a heart attack within 10 years are also viewed as high risk.

It is estimated that with these new guidelines an additional 15 million Americans will be considered to have high blood pressure. With health professionals adhering to these standards, more Americans may be prescribed blood pressure medication and educated on lifestyle behaviors that can reduce blood pressure and the risk of future chronic disease.

To avoid hypertension or decrease your blood pressure levels, consider looking at your lifestyle behaviors. Being physically active and finding ways to reduce your stress is good for your heart. Eating a heart healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, good fats (unsaturated) and lean sources of protein is beneficial. You can refer to the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet for tips on foods to eat.

Written By: Charlotte Walker, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern. Learn more about Wellness Workdays and our wellness program offerings by downloading our brochure.

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