Blood Pressure Guidelines Lowered

Lifestyle Changes, Medication Can Lower Your Numbers

Do you know what your blood pressure is and if it is low, normal or high? If you know the answer, you may want to check again. The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association revised what they consider to be a “high” blood pressure level last fall.

Under the new guidelines, any pressure reading over 130/80 is considered high vs. the old guidelines of 140/90. The change means that nearly half of the U.S. adult population may be classified as having high blood pressure. If your pressure is 120/80, you should begin making lifestyle changes to lower your numbers.

If you have high blood pressure, the first step is to make lifestyle changes, including getting daily exercise, reducing salt in your diet, giving up tobacco, limiting alcohol and losing weight. Your provider may also prescribe medication to lower your numbers.

The new rules recognize complications can occur at lower pressure readings than previous guidelines accounted for. The categories were last changed in 2003 and came only after healthcare professional organizations and a writing committee of 21 scientists and health experts reviewed more than 900 published studies. The change allows for earlier detection and treatment of high blood pressure to avoid future health problems.

High blood pressure is often called the silent killer since it can go unnoticed for years. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, including heart attacks, strokes and congestive heart failure, or chronic kidney disease.

Knowing your blood pressure important. If you keep your blood pressure down and under control now, you can avoid future health problems. Start working on healthier habits today rather than waiting for a problem to develop. If your blood pressure is high, make lifestyle changes and take any prescription medication to bring and keep it under control.

Tom Lewandowski, MD, is a cardiologist at ThedaCare Cardiovascular Care-Appleton. He is a past governor and president of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American College of Cardiology and is currently a member of the American Cardiology College’s Foundation’s Task Force on Health Policy Statements and Systems of Care.