The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology are setting new thresholds when it comes to defining healthy blood pressure. Their new guidelines mean more people will be classified as having high blood pressure.

The new guidelines say people with resting blood pressure readings higher than 130/80 are now considered as having ‘high blood pressure.’ The old standard used to be 140/90. Under the old guidelines, 32% of the American population were deemed to have high blood pressure. The new standards mean 46% will be classified as having high blood pressure.

The typical adult heart beats 100,000 times each day. It sends blood flowing through 60,000 miles of blood vessels. Medical experts say even the slightest elevation in sustained blood pressure can cause a stroke or heart attack.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is often referred to as ‘the silent killer’. It usually has no outward symptoms. Medical experts say once a BP reading rises above 130/80, damage is being done to the blood vessels and the heart. Every twelve minutes, someone in America dies as a result of high blood pressure.

Understanding the BP numbers
A blood pressure reading consists of two numbers --- commonly expressed as one number “over” another number. The first (or top) number measures your systolic pressure. It’s the pressure against your artery walls during that split-second when the heart is pumping out blood. The second (or bottom) number measures your diastolic pressure. This number is the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart is at rest.

When you’re relaxed, a blood pressure reading of less than 120/80 mmHg is considered normal. Readings that are 130/80 mmHg or more are now officially considered ‘high’ blood pressures.

Learn more about the new BP guidelines using these links:
KARE 11 story on new BP guidelines

Men less likely to control BP

American Heart Association BP announcement

Ways to lower your blood pressure

Some people are able to lower their blood pressure with lifestyle changes.

  • Cut back on the salt and sodium in your diet. Use herbs and spices to add more flavor to your foods. Avoid processed foods because many are loaded with sodium.
  • Keep a food diary. Track the kinds of food you eat along with when and how much you eat. Then increase the amount of grains, fruits, and vegetables you eat. Look for foods that are low in fat and saturated fat
  • Get moving! Experts recommend at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity on most days of the week. This can be as simple as a brisk after-dinner walk.
  • Don’t smoke. Enough said.
  • Watch what you drink. Caffeine and alcohol can raise blood pressures. If you choose to drink these products, do so in moderation.
  • Reduce your stress. Practice deep-breathing and relaxation techniques. You’ll be less stressed and your blood pressure will drop too.
  • Get some sleep! A good night of rest can help lower blood pressure.

Talk again with a doctor if blood pressure readings haven’t decreased after three to six months of lifestyle changes. Medication may be needed to lower BP rates. It’s important to take medicine exactly as prescribed. Managing high blood pressure is a lifelong commitment. There is no cure.

Take Control of Your Health!

  • Make an appointment to have your blood pressure checked at a doctor’s office. A more thorough exam will provide more information on your health.
  • Cut back on the amount of salt and sodium in your meals.
  • Eat more grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Ask your doctor if medication is right for you.
  • Exercise regularly to reduce your stress and lower your blood pressure.

Experts say routine blood pressure screenings should begin at age 21, with repeat evaluations at least every two years. Depending on your current health, medical history and risk factors for cardiovascular disease, you may need to have your blood pressure checked more often.
If your reading is above normal, please make an appointment to see a doctor!

Know Your Numbers

This information is provided by Health Fair 11 as part of its Know Your Numbers campaign. Health Fair 11 is a non-profit organization that operates with the support of KARE 11 TV and UCare. Learn more at www.HealthFair11.org.