Your Blood Pressure – What's New?

posted by Colette Rossiter on Thursday, February 21, 2019

Did you know that almost half of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure?  Could you be one of the 103 million at risk for heart attack and stroke? 

For years, we’ve known high blood pressure (hypertension) to be a reading of 140/90 mm Hg or higher.  But guidelines have recently changed.  Based on several studies linking a lower blood pressure threshold to cardiovascular disease, a BP reading of 130/80 is now considered hypertension.  Even a systolic reading between 120-129 is considered elevated.  This chart explains different readings and what they mean for you:

Systolic

Diastolic

Category

What To Do

<120 and <80 Normal BP

Evaluate yearly; Maintain a healthy lifestyle

120-129 and <80 Elevated BP

Reassess in 3-6 months; Adopt a healthy lifestyle

130-139 or 80-89 Hypertension: Stage 1 See physician for guidance and/or medication; Adopt a healthy lifestyle; Reassess monthly until control is achieved
>140 or >90 Hypertension: Stage 2 See physician for guidance and/or medications; Adopt a healthy lifestyle; Reassess monthly until control is achieved, then every 3-6 months

Source: 2017 Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and management of High Blood Pressure in Adults

Let’s review some basics.  Blood pressure is the force of blood moving against the walls of your arteries.  The top number (systolic) measures the force in the arteries when the heart beats.  The bottom number (diastolic) measures the pressure between beats.  High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because it rarely has symptoms so you may not you have it.  Over time, untreated high blood pressure can weaken your heart, blood vessels, and kidneys and makes a stroke or heart attack much more likely.

The good news is that high blood pressure can be treated or even prevented.

So let’s talk prevention.  Genetics and lifestyle both impact your health.  While you can’t control what you inherit, you can control aspects of your lifestyle.  Heart health is impacted daily by the choices you make.  Here’s a short list of lifestyle changes that can make a big impact on your blood pressure, as well as your overall health:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Easier said than done, I know.  Start with just a few small changes that will become routine over time.
  • Cut back on salt and high sodium foods.  It helps to become a label reader!  Aim for about 1,500mg of sodium or less per day.
  • Get moving!  Regular physical activity that raises your heart rate is good for you.  This can be as simple as taking a brisk walk or working in the house or yard.  Aim for 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline.  The first three suggestions on this list will help you achieve your weight loss goal.  Losing just a few pounds can make a big difference!
  • Don’t smoke.  Smoking greatly impacts your overall health and increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Limit alcohol.  For men no more than two drinks per day and no more than one a day for women.

As for genetics, your family history may strongly influence your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer.  Even though you can’t change your genetic makeup, knowing your family history can help you reduce your risk of developing health problems.

How do you know if you have high blood pressure?  The answer is simple: get it checked. This can be done with your healthcare provider, at a pharmacy, or even at home with your own blood pressure monitor.  Also, we would gladly check your numbers here at Spencer Hospital at our free Blood Pressure Screening Clinic every Wednesday morning from 9-10 AM in our main lobby. 

If you already take medicine for hypertension, keep a log of your readings for your physician to review.  Remember to take your medication as directed and never stop or adjust the dosage on your own.  If your blood pressure numbers get lower, it’s because your medicine is working!

Do you need a jump start to make a few lifestyle changes?  Give us a call…we’re here to help!

About The Author

Colette Rossiter

Colette Rossiter, serves as assistant director for Spencer Hospital Community Health Services and Clay County Public Health. Colette has enjoyed the variety of responsibilities her nursing career has provided, yet has a passion for public health and safety.