Under Pressure: How New Guidelines for Hypertension Are Causing a Stir
According to EverydayHealth.com, nearly half of all Americans will now fall into the high blood pressure category when referring to the new standards set forth by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA). The irony of the timing for these new guidelines can’t be ignored. In 2017, as many Americans sat down to celebrate with a calorie-ridden Thanksgiving meal – the hard truth set in. Under the old guidelines, a BP greater than 140/90 was considered to be elevated. Today, above 120/80 mm Hg is the new standard for what is considered over the line.
The ACC and AHA are putting a laser focus on the preventive treatment for hypertension, which will hopefully prevent a host of complications down the line. After all, high blood pressure is responsible for the second largest number of preventable heart attack and stroke related deaths – second only to smoking.
To truly understand the latest guidelines, one must first understand BP readings, in general. One’s blood pressure reading is the result of two main entities: systolic pressure (the top number in the reading), which measures the maximum pressure your heart generates while beating, and diastolic pressure (the bottom number), which signifies the amount of pressure in your arteries between beats, or at rest.
Under the new guidelines, a “normal” blood pressure reading is defined as less than 120 systolic mm Hg and less than 80 diastolic mm Hg – which would be read as “120 over 80 millimeters of mercury.” Having a keen understanding of readings will help patients stay abreast of the issue and monitor their progress.
One of the reasons the new Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults has caused such a stir is that it has labeled those who were once considered generally healthy as having a disease. Recently, all of the ratings have shifted; what was once considered “Pre-hypertension” is now “Hypertension stage 1”.
If you fall into the “elevated” blood pressure category – which is marked by systolic readings of 120-129 and less than 80 diastolic – small lifestyle changes can put you off the path of high blood pressure. Unless you have already suffered a stroke or heart attack (or are a smoker prone to these incidences), you most likely won’t require a prescription medication to get those numbers down.
In terms of lifestyle, the Centers for Disease Control has called out obesity as a risk factor for many maladies, from diabetes and cancer to – you guessed it – high blood pressure. A healthy diet is key to losing weight and lowering blood pressure. Ask your doctor about starting the DASH diet – that is, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. In addition to using salt sparingly, this plan recommends upping your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as low-fat dairy foods, while limiting saturated fats and cholesterol.
High blood pressure is considered to be a “silent killer,” meaning that it can be asymptomatic in its early stages but can cause severe organ damage if left untreated. Don’t wait until it’s too late. The primary care physicians at Rockville Concierge Doctors are here to help and offer a host of helpful tips to keep you healthy. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 301-545-1811.
The American Heart Association
The New England Journal of Medicine