High Blood Pressure Being Redefined. KDWN's Dr. Daliah Explains What That Means For You

High blood pressure has now been redefined as being greater than 130/80 mmHg, down from 140/90 mmHg.  This will mean close to 103 million more Americans will fall under the “hypertensive” category.

Multiple agencies, including the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology, redefined the guidelines, in practice for the last 14 years, to lower the threshold for high blood pressure from 140/90 to 130/80.

Under the old guidelines, 1/3 of US Americans were considered to have high blood pressure.  Now 42% of Americans will be “hypertensive”.

In lowering the guidelines, task force members hope to reduce complications associated with high blood pressure and start treatment earlier in those who have not been treated.

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What do the blood pressure numbers mean?

The top number, or systolic pressure, is the pressure the heart exudes during a beat or pumping of the blood.

Diastolic pressure is the pressure in your arteries between beats while the heart is “filling”.

Both numbers are equally important as elevation of either can increase one’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

What can long term high blood pressure do?

Chronic high blood pressure can be dangerous.  It may cause:

Heart attacks

Heart failure

Stroke

Kidney disease

Dementia

Eye damage – vision loss

Erectile dysfunction…to name a few.

How do we treat high blood pressure?

The stages of blood pressure are defined in the chart above.  At the elevated or early stages of high blood pressure the following lifestyle changes will be recommended:

Weight loss

Low salt diet

Low fat diet

Good sleep habits

Regular exercise

Avoiding tobacco products

Limiting alcohol consumption

As a family physician I would also screen for diabetes, high cholesterol, low thyroid, kidney disease and sleep apnea.

If blood pressure cannot be controlled and continues to rise, medications may be prescribed to decrease blood volume, or lower the heart rate, or relax the blood vessels.

Daliah Wachs, MD,