High Blood Pressure Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
New guidelines released by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology in November 2017 have lowered the bar for what is considered high blood pressure (hypertension). Under these new guidelines, it is estimated that 46% of Americans will be diagnosed with hypertension. Prior to this amendment, 32 percent of the population had been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
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What is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is defined as the force of the blood flowing through your blood vessels. Although you may not experience symptoms, high blood pressure can be damaging to critical organs and may lead to life-threatening conditions such as heart failure, stroke and kidney disease.
What Are the New Blood Pressure Guidelines?
One of the main changes made to the blood pressure guidelines is the redefinition of what high blood pressure is. The new guidelines are as follows:
- Normal—Less Than 120/80
- High Blood Pressure (Stage 1)—130-139/80-89
- High Blood Pressure (Stage 2)—140-180/90-120
- Hypertensive Crisis—More Than 180/120*
*This is considered an emergency situation. Consult your doctor immediately and report to the nearest Emergency Department.
According to the American college of Cardiology, other changes include:
- Avoiding the prescription of blood pressure medication for Stage 1 hypertension unless the patient has had a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke, or is at high risk of heart attack or stroke.
- Acknowledging many people may need more than one type of medication to regulate blood pressure. In addition, there is a higher likelihood of patients following prescriptions if multiple medications are integrated into a single pill.
- Recognizing that facts such as stress and socioeconomic status may influence the presence of high blood pressure.
Why the Change in Blood Pressure Guidelines?
The change in blood pressure guidelines is due primarily to the study of the risks of high blood pressure in patients over time. Experts believe that these new guidelines, if followed correctly and consistently, will assist more patients in avoiding preventable conditions such as heart attack and stroke through proper management of blood pressure earlier than before.
What Are the Health Risks Associated With High Blood Pressure?
According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure can cause a number of life-threatening conditions, including:
- Heart Failure
- Heart Attack
- Kidney Disease or Failure
High blood pressure can also be responsible for life-changing conditions including vision loss, sexual dysfunction and peripheral artery disease (PAD).
What Do the Numbers Mean?
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers, written with one over the other. For example, 120/70 would be read as “one-twenty over seventy.” In this example, 120 refers to the pressure of your blood against blood vessels when the heart is actively pumping, while 70 refers to the pressure on your artery walls when your heart is at rest between beats.
What Are Some Ways You Can Prevent or Manage High Blood Pressure?
The best way to prevent or manage high blood pressure is through proper diet, regular exercise and consistent weight and stress management. Lowering your sodium intake through reducing your consumption of salt and processed foods, reducing your daily caffeine intake and establishing an effective and appropriate exercise routine are good places to start.
Related: Six tips to naturally lower your blood pressure>>
Meet our team or call 773-878-6888 to schedule an appointment with a board-certified cardiovascular specialist.