Understanding the New Blood Pressure Guidelines

High blood pressure affects more than 100 million Americans, and many are unaware they have it. With heart disease reigning as the number one cause of death, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) released new guidelines to redefine high blood pressure so that it can be treated earlier on.

At Gastonia Wellness and Long Term Care, we want you to be in the know about your blood pressure. Here’s what you need to know about the new blood pressure guidelines.

A closer examination of the old high blood pressure guidelines

Previously, the ACC and AHA guidelines defined high blood pressure as 140/90 or higher. The top number is your systolic pressure. This represents the force against your artery walls each time your heart beats. The bottom number is your diastolic pressure, and it’s the pressure against your artery walls in between contractions.

Blood pressure changes throughout the day, but a sustained pressure of 140/90 or higher can cause damage to blood vessels, kidneys, and even your brain. For this reason, the previous ACC and AHA guidelines recommended treatment for hypertension when levels remain elevated at 140/90.

The new guidelines lower the definition of high blood pressure to 130/80

If your last checkup indicated that you didn’t have high blood pressure, you may want to have it checked again. The change comes after clinical data suggesting that sustained levels of 130/80 can cause damage to your body.

Elevated blood pressure negatively impacts many body systems. It can quietly cause your arteries to become narrow and weaken their inner lining. It can damage the blood vessels in your kidneys, causing scarring and reduced function, and it can increase the chances of having a heart attack, stroke, or cognitive impairment.

Under the new guidelines, a systolic blood pressure reading of 120-129 is considered elevated and should be monitored regularly. A normal reading is less than 120/80.

Treatment recommended earlier

The ACC and AHA previously recommended treatment when your blood pressure reaches 140/90. The new guidelines lower that threshold, recommending treatment at a sustained blood pressure of 130/80.

High blood pressure treatment includes diet and lifestyle changes, as well as medication. As board-certified internal medicine physician, Dr. James Needell can develop an individualized plan to get your blood pressure levels under control. This includes identifying if you need medication, which medications are most appropriate, and whether you need more than one medication to manage your blood pressure.

In some cases, you may be able to manage your blood pressure without medications. During the early stages of hypertension, diet and lifestyle changes alone are sometimes enough to bring blood pressure down to within a normal range.

Importance of diet and lifestyle changes

High blood pressure is a modifiable disease. This means many adults have a good chance of getting their blood pressure under control with the appropriate changes. If you’re overweight, trimming down can have a significant impact on blood pressure. Losing even 10 pounds is enough to cut your blood pressure by several points.

Dr. Needell will prescribe a comprehensive plan that includes an exercise regimen to get you moving, along with a low-sodium diet to help manage your blood pressure.

Untreated and uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to death. If you have high blood pressure under the new guidelines, visit Dr. Needell and his team at his office in Gastonia, North Carolina. Call to request an appointment today or book it online.

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