Do you have high blood pressure?

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High blood pressure under new guidelines

Hypertension, the silent killer, used to be diagnosed when your blood pressure was higher than 140/90. Based on new guidelines announced November 13, 2017, at an American Heart Association conference, you have the condition with a reading of 130/80.

Matthew Anderson, MD, a family medicine physician with the HonorHealth Medical Group, explains the impact of the new standards.

Q. What numbers do the new guidelines spell out?

A: The new guidelines are as follows:

  • Normal blood pressure: Under 120/80.
  • Elevated: 120-129/<80.
  • Stage 1: 130-139/80-89.
  • Stage 2: At least 140/at least 90.

Q. What is high blood pressure? It is the same as hypertension?

A: Yes, they're the same. It occurs when the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls is too high. This added pressure causes the heart to work too hard and blood vessels to function less effectively. Over time, the stress damages the tissues within arteries. This can further damage the heart, cardiovascular system and other internal organs.

Q. Are there any symptoms?

A: There are no obvious symptoms. It's why hypertension is called the silent killer.

Q. Do the new standards mean that a lot more Americans have high blood pressure now?

A: The threshold for diagnosing and treating high blood pressure has changed. Many people who would not be seen as having high blood pressure or needing treatment under previous guidelines would now be diagnosed as having hypertension. These new guidelines encourage earlier and more aggressive treatment of hypertension.

Q. What led to the decision to establish new guidelines?

A: Hundreds of studies and clinical trials indicated that lives and money could be saved by preventing more strokes, cardiovascular events and kidney failure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in the world. You need to take steps to control your blood pressure earlier.

Q. Do you have to take medication if you have high blood pressure?

A: Not necessarily. A healthier lifestyle could make the difference in lowering it:

  • Adopt a heart-healthy diet that includes incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and reducing salt, carbohydrates and sugars.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stop smoking or using any nicotine products.
  • Boost your physical activity.
  • Watch your alcohol intake. Check with your doctor to see what's advisable.

If medicine is needed, the new directions are to treat earlier and more aggressively to get blood pressure into the normal range quickly.

Need a family medicine physician to help manage your blood pressure? Find a doctor.