You go to the doctor and you find out you have high blood pressure. What happened? Last year it was fine! Guess what, your blood pressure may still be the same, but the guidelines by the American Heart Association have changed. (1)
The New Guidelines: Why And What Are The Changes?
Guidelines are often evaluated, but not always updated. The new guidelines have taken effect with one goal in mind: to address high blood pressure earlier and prevent strokes and heart attacks more effectively.
According to the new guidelines, 130/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher is considered high. In the past, it was 140/90 mm Hg for younger than 65, and 150/80 mm Hg for older.
Though the standard target used to be 140 mm Hg or less for the systolic number, 120 mm Hg or lower is more ideal. Even 130 mm Hg can show an increased risk for cardiovascular conditions.
A 140/90 mm Hg or higher is considered Stage 2 hypertension and 180/120 mm Hg a hypertensive crisis.
The new guidelines also don’t differentiate between those who are younger than 65 and those who are older. Your risk of cardiovascular disease doesn’t differentiate between ages, neither should guidelines either. (1)
How Can I Take My Own Blood Pressure?
If you are concerned, you can buy a blood pressure monitor. It costs $40-100, but your insurance may cover it if you have high blood pressure. Choose a monitor that goes around your arm, has an automated monitor with a cuff that inflates itself, and has a digital readout. Some motors also plug into your smartphone to create a graph of your progress.
When taking your blood pressure, avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages 30 minutes beforehand. Sit quietly and relax for five minutes with your back supported and legs uncrossed. Support your arm so your elbows are at heart level. Wrap the cuff around the bare skin. Don’t talk during measurements. Always take a second reading or even a third. Take the average of your readings. Record your blood pressure reading.
What Does This Mean For Me? Do I Need Medication?
If you’ve already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, these new guidelines won’t make a difference in your treatment. If you are newly diagnosed, you may not need to go on medication right away either. Changing your diet to a whole food, heart-healthy diet, losing weight if you need to, getting regular exercise, and learning relaxation strategies can help you lower your blood pressure naturally. If you’ve already had a heart attack or stroke, medication is recommended even at Stage 1. For others, at Stage 1, lifestyle changes alone are recommended and usually enough.
Don’t take high blood pressure lightly. You want to avoid cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and stroke. Take care of yourself through a healthy diet, exercise, and relaxation.
How do you feel about the new guidelines? Do you have high blood pressure? What steps are you taking to maintain a healthy blood pressure? Share your answers in the comments below.