High Blood Pressure: What You Need to Know

There’s a new threshold for how we define hypertension among Americans. The numbers might surprise you.

For 14 years, blood pressures over 140/90 were diagnosed as hypertension. The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recently
introduced new guidelines to improve blood pressure control and prevent cardiovascular disease.

Under these new standards, normal blood pressure is 120/80 or less, and hypertension is now considered when numbers are greater than 130/80. The change means more individuals, particularly seniors, will be diagnosed with hypertension. Some will receive recommendations for healthy lifestyle changes. Others will be prescribed medication to lower their pressure.


Here is some important information about the 
new guidelines.

Elevated Blood Pressure–Readings between 121-129/80 are considered elevated blood pressure. These patients will be instructed to adopt a series of lifestyle changes.

Stages of Hypertension–Readings between 130- 139/80-89 are now classified Stage 1 hypertension. If your blood pressure is in this range, your provider will
assess your 10-year risk for cardiovascular disease. This risk is calculated using your age, weight, whether you smoke and if other health conditions exist like
diabetes. If your 10-year risk is less than 10%, lifestyle changes will be recommended. If your risk is greater, medication will be prescribed to lower pressure.

Stage 2 hypertension begins at 140/90 or higher. At this level, lifestyle
changes and blood pressure-lowering medication is prescribed.

Heart disease
remains
Americans’
leading cause
of death. By
monitoring your
blood pressure
and getting it
under control early, you will improve your heart health and life outcomes.

Lifestyle Changes–There are several lifestyle modifications you can make to naturally lower your blood pressure. These include increasing exercise, losing weight, lowering dietary salt, decreasing alcohol intake and quitting smoking. Consult with your primary care provider to develop a plan.

Exercise–Adults over 65 need at least 2.5 hours of weekly moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. This can include brisk walking, bicycling, tennis and ballroom
dance. In addition, you should spend 2 hours a week strengthening muscles using weights or resistance equipment

Losing Weight–Increasing exercise can be a big step toward reducing weight but dietary changes are also needed. The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a good choice. It promotes increasing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, poultry and nuts.

Reducing Salt–DASH also endorses reducing salty foods. Dietary guidelines recommend a daily sodium intake of no more than 1,500mg. Reading labels
is key.

Amber Watson is a MinuteClinic nurse practitioner inside select CVS Pharmacy stores in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties.

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