Based on the new blood pressure guidelines set by the American Heart Association, more Americans may be at risk for stroke and heart disease -- two of the leading causes of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every three Americans has high blood pressure. With the elimination of the prehypertension category and lower blood pressure ranges, the number of men affected triples and it doubles for women who are at risk or diagnosed with high blood pressure. The new blood pressure recommendations mean that the number of Americans living with high blood pressure will rise from 32 to 46 percent and will impact the younger population the most.
The new guidelines are not meant as a scare tactic to promote medication. They were created to increase awareness of the importance of being proactive about your health, and to prevent or help control high blood pressure and secondary diseases like stroke and heart disease. Furthermore, uncontrolled high blood pressure can impair kidney function and contribute to the inability to think, remember and learn.
What are the new guidelines?
Normal: Systolic (Less than 120) AND Diastolic (Less than 80)
Elevated: Systolic (120-129) AND Diastolic (Less than 80)
High blood pressure (Hypertension stage 1): Systolic (130-139) OR Diastolic (80-89)
High blood pressure (Hypertension stage 2): Systolic (140 or higher) OR Diastolic (90 or higher)
Hypertensive Crisis (Consult your doctor immediately): Systolic (Higher than 180) AND/OR Diastolic (Higher than 120)
Regardless of which category you are in (i.e., normal, elevated blood pressure or high blood pressure), the new guidelines emphasize healthy lifestyle choices, which include:
Participating in regular physical activity (e.g., walking, running, gardening)
Taking control of your stress
Consuming more fruits and vegetables
Limiting salt intake
Checking your blood pressure regularly. For consistency, if using an in-store machine, it is recommended to stay with the same machine every time you check it.
Scheduling routine check-ups with your doctor
Written by: Nadine Brooks, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
1. American Heart Association
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
3. Consumer Reports
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
5. Harvard School of Public Health