Understanding the New Blood Pressure Guidelines

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three adults suffers from hypertension or high blood pressure. Unfortunately, only a little more than half, 54% to be precise, are treating their disease. This leaves approximately 46% of the population with high blood pressure, which contributes to the deaths of more than 1,100 people every day.

There is good news, however, you don’t have to be one of those statistics. Understanding your blood pressure numbers and comparing them to the new guidelines will let you know when it’s time to talk to Dr. Singh.

What Your Blood Pressure Numbers Mean

Most adults have taken their blood pressure and know that it comes back in two numbers, such as 117/69. The first, or “top” number is the systolic number. It tells the doctor how much force the blood exerts as the heart pumps it through your bloodstream. The second number or “bottom” number is the diastolic number. This tells the doctor how much force the blood exerts when your heart is resting between beats.

Why High Blood Pressure Is Dangerous

When your blood pressure is high, it can cause a wide range of problems. First of all, your blood pressure is directly related to how your heart is beating. When your blood pressure is high, your heart has to work harder to pump the blood. Since the heart is a muscle, this can lead to overuse and force part of the heart to overexert, which can lead to heart failure. In addition, high blood pressure exerts more force on the walls of your veins and arteries. Have you ever blown too much air in a balloon? That kind of pop can and does happen throughout the body. When it happens in the brain, it’s called a stroke.

Older Guidelines

Previously, doctors were only concerned with blood pressure that was 140/90 and remained near that range most of the time. Exceptions included those who were over 65 and those who already had cardiovascular issues. “Normal” was considered anything under 150 over 90.

New Guidelines

But the new guidelines have changed it all. First, there is no difference in high blood pressure guidelines for young or old patients. Then, it changed the guidelines to five different levels. Normal is now anything that is less than 120 over less than 80. People who have a blood pressure of 118/76 are just fine. People are now considered to have elevated blood pressure if their systolic, or “top” number is between 120 and 129, but their diastolic number is still less than 80. So, someone with a blood pressure of 125/77 is in the elevated range.

The next level is called hypertension stage one, and it covers those who have a systolic level between 130 and 139 with a diastolic number between 80 and 89. Hypertension stage two kicks in with a systolic of 140 or higher or a diastolic higher than 90. A hypertensive crisis occurs if a high blood pressure patient has a systolic pressure higher than 180 and/or a diastolic pressure higher than 120.

Treatment

The good news is that these new guidelines don’t automatically mean more people will be on medication. Many doctors see these new guidelines as a way to better encourage their patients to be aware of their blood pressure. Those who hit the elevated or the stage one hypertension levels of the new guidelines may not need medication. But Dr. Singh may talk to these patients about making lifestyle changes that will lower their blood pressure naturally. It may mean getting more exercise, losing weight, changing their diet, and reducing stress. Those with hypertension two may need medication to help lower their blood pressure immediately. Then, Dr. Singh can help them make lifestyle changes that will lower their pressure over time.

What You Can Do

First of all, know your numbers. Take your blood pressure on a regular basis, and keep a record so that you know if your blood pressure is stable or changes radically. Secondly, call Dr. Singh and be sure to get a thorough physical, including checking your blood pressure. Finally, work on those things that you can do to lower your blood pressure naturally, such as eliminating caffeine, stopping smoking, losing weight, and getting plenty of exercise. Your heart will thank you for it.

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