The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recently released guidelines lowering the definition of high blood pressure and made new recommendations for blood pressure control.
The new guidelines now define high blood pressure as 130/80 rather than 140/90. This means 46 percent of U.S. adults are now considered to have high blood pressure, or hypertension, placing them at elevated risk for heart attack and stroke.
February is American Heart Month- a great time to consider how you can better manage those risk factors.
Know your risk for heart disease by taking our Heart Risk Assessment.
The guidelines aim to prevent heart attack and stroke by addressing hypertension – a major risk factor – earlier. The good news is you can reduce your risk by making simple lifestyle changes and monitoring your blood pressure at home.
Let’s take a closer look at what it all means for you.
What do blood pressure numbers mean?
Blood pressure is determined by two numbers. The top number, called the systolic pressure, represents the pressure of blood as it is pumped out of the heart. The bottom number, called the diastolic pressure, represents the pressure during the time the heart relaxes and fills up for the next beat.
A look at the new guidelines
Previous guidelines defined high blood pressure, or Stage 1 hypertension, as greater than 140/90.
The new guidelines are as follows:
The hope is that most people who now have high blood pressure under the new guidelines will make lifestyle changes rather than take medication. Medication is only recommended for people with Stage 1 hypertension who have certain additional risk factors, including diabetes, kidney disease, or previous histories of heart attack or stroke.
How can I lower my blood pressure without medications?
You can make simple lifestyle changes to control your blood pressure:
Checking blood pressure at home
White-coat hypertension, or high blood pressure that occurs in medical settings, is a real phenomenon. That’s why the new guidelines recommend monitoring your blood pressure at home.
If you take medication or if you were recently diagnosed with hypertension, check your blood pressure once or twice a day. If you don’t have high blood pressure, it’s still a good idea to monitor your blood pressure about once a month.
Automated blood pressure cuffs provide systolic and diastolic pressure numbers along with your heart rate. These cuffs, which are available at pharmacies, don’t need to be expensive to be reliable. Ask your pharmacist what is right for you.
Cuffs that go on the wrist are not reliable. Choose an arm cuff that is comfortable, and have it fitted at the pharmacy. A cuff that is too small will give a falsely elevated reading. You might want to consider a cuff that syncs to your smartphone for easy documentation and tracking.
When you are ready to take your blood pressure reading, sit quietly in a chair for two or three minutes. Don’t talk or move during the actual reading.
Communicate with your doctor
Your health-care provider is key in helping you manage your blood pressure. Stay in touch and report any trends you notice in your self-monitoring. Your doctor can determine the most appropriate way to both prevent and manage high blood pressure.
To find a doctor, visit LGHealth.org/FindADoctor.