Provider checking a patient's blood pressure
February 19, 2018 | by Humera Ali MD, FACC, FRCPC

Last November two leading health groups, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC), jointly released new guidelines that group more individuals into the category of elevated or high blood pressure.

  • Normal blood pressure: still any reading less than 130 over 80
  • New guidelines for elevated or high blood pressure: Anything above 130 over 80

Under these new guidelines, 46 percent of U.S. adults now can be classified as having high blood pressure, up from 32 percent under the previous guidelines.

Redefining hypertension to increase awareness

While the issue is not one to be taken lightly, it is important to note that there are not suddenly millions of people who now have high blood pressure or hypertension that they did not have before. The purpose of these new guidelines is meant to get more people involved in controlling their blood pressure before it becomes a more serious health risk.

High blood pressure is a known risk factor for a number of dangerous conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, and even Alzheimer’s disease, and the risk of diseases that are linked to high blood pressure doubles with a systolic pressure of 130 compared to 120. Lowering your systolic blood pressure just from 140 to 130 can mean a 15 to 20 percent reduction in your risk for heart disease.

Talk to your doctor about ways to lower your blood pressure

The AHA/ACC’s new blood pressure guidelines should start blood pressure management conversations between patients and their primary care physicians. Being more aware of and managing lifestyle factors that contribute to high blood pressure is the best approach.

Several areas contribute to the underlying cause of about 90 percent of high blood pressure cases. Addressing these factors will help lower blood pressure numbers:

  1. Poor diet
  2. Lack of physical activity
  3. Level of alcohol consumption
  4. Presence of sleep apnea
  5. Use of nonsteroidals: naproxen, ibuprofen, and those in that family, commonly used for anti-inflammatory effect (suggest using only as much as needed and no more)

It is important to know your blood pressure numbers. Talk to your doctor about what impact these factors may be having and how to lower your numbers, if they are high.

February is National Heart Month. Read more about you can make heart healthy choices.