The numbers are in, and if the new American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association high blood pressure guidelines are any indication, you may want to pay attention. The new guidelines — the first comprehensive set since 2003 — lower the definition of high blood pressure (hypertension) to account for complications that can occur at lower numbers, reducing risk of cardiovascular disease.
We all are used to a blood pressure goal of 140/90 mm Hg for most patients and 150/90 for patients age 60 and older. Because research shows data suggesting higher systolic and diastolic blood pressures are associated with high risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart attack, heart failure and abdominal aortic aneurysm, the new guidelines focus on a goal of less than 130/80 in most patients and less than 140/90 in patients 65 and older.
New Blood pressure guidelines are categorized as:
▪ Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg
▪ Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80
▪ Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89
▪ Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg
▪ Hypertensive crisis: Systolic over 180 and/or diastolic over 120, with patients needing prompt changes in medication if there are no other indications of problems, or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage.
What this means
According to ACC/AHA, the new definition of high blood pressure will result in nearly half of the U.S. adult population (46 percent) reading for high blood pressure, with the greatest impact expected among younger people. Additionally, the prevalence of high blood pressure is expected to triple among men under age 45, and double among women under 45, the guideline authors note. However, only a small increase is expected in the number of adults requiring medication for the condition. While these statistics may seem grim, lower numbers mean better prevention and earlier detection, which is beneficial for all ages.
What you can do
As the new guidelines warrant better goals, it is very important for patients to monitor their blood pressure readings at home. In most cases, home readings tend to be lower than those taken in an office setting, since nervousness causing your heart to beat faster often occurs.
If noticing any continued elevated home blood pressure readings with systolic greater than 130 and diastolic greater than 80, you should contact your primary care physician to discuss in further detail.
Lifestyle changes like weight loss, a low sodium diet, consumption of potassium rich foods and limiting daily alcohol intake to no more than one drink in women and two drinks in men, are shown to have a total reduction of 10 to 12 mm of systolic blood pressure and 4 to 5 mm of diastolic blood pressure. In addition to alcohol, avoiding NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen sodium; decongestants like Mucinex and Sudafed; and caffeine consumption can also help in lowering your numbers.
Navatha Bondalapati, M.D., is a family medicine provider for Mount Nittany Physician Group at the Mount Nittany Health — Penns Valley location.