Are you in the danger zone? Nearly half of all U.S. adults are identified as having high blood pressure, or hypertension, but what does this mean exactly? Imagine it like this, hypertension can easily be compared to having a piping system where the pressure is slowly increasing. Over time, this pressure wears on the machinery (“your heart”) and affects the overall system of equipment (“your body”). When blood pushes too hard against the blood vessels of the body, it damages the tissues of the arteries over time, weakening the heart and overall circulatory system. The good news is, there are ways to manage, and even prevent, this from occurring.
The American Heart Association (AHA) sets guidelines of what a healthy blood pressure should be. The new guidelines lower the blood pressure at which a person is considered to have high blood pressure. Under the previous definition, 32% of American adults were considered to have high blood pressure. The change to the guidelines changes the definition, with the result that 46% of U.S. adults are now identified as having high blood pressure. According to the AHA, “a blood pressure of less than 120/80 still will be considered normal, but levels at or above that, to 129, will be called ‘elevated’.”1 Having these new guidelines in place will allow doctors to better detect, treat and prevent hypertension in their patients.
The new guidelines can be thought of as a preventive measure. By monitoring and recognizing moderate to high blood pressure sooner, individuals will be able to take steps to control their blood pressure earlier. With implementation of healthy lifestyle changes, the risk of heart disease and stroke diminishes, giving those with hypertension a chance to get a better hold on their health. In fact, not only can early detection possibly help prevent stroke and cardiovascular issues, but it may also help prevent kidney failure. The new guidelines can help doctors detect, treat and prevent the results of hypertension.
The AHA’s journal, Hypertension emphasizes, “that doctors need to focus on a whole framework of healthier lifestyle changes for [their] patients,”2 which may be easier to do if they are able to start educating their patients earlier on. Paul Whelton, M.D., who chaired the guideline writing committee said, “I’m not saying it’s easy to change our lifestyles, but that should be first and foremost.”3
Paul Whelton, M.D., chaired the committee that wrote the new high blood pressure guidelines.
Heart Healthy Diet and Lifestyle Tips from the AHA
- Reduce salt intake
- Incorporate potassium-rich foods
- i.e. bananas, potatoes, avocados, and dark leafy vegetables
- Cut back on alcohol consumption
- Healthy weight loss
- Quit smoking cigarettes
- Increase physical activity
Oftentimes, people with high blood pressure may not even realize they have it, and because of this it has become known as the “silent killer.” There are usually no obvious symptoms, making hypertension the main culprit for “more heart disease and stroke deaths than almost all other preventable causes,”4 falling second only to smoking. Check out the guide below to see where you fall on the scale, and make it a priority to live a healthy life to help build a healthy future.
If you think you may be at risk of high blood pressure or hypertension, consult with your doctor. This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.
- “Nearly Half of U.S. Adults Could Now Be Classified with High Blood Pressure, under New Definitions.” News on Heart.org, 14 Nov. 2017, news.heart.org/nearly-half-u-s-adults-now-classified-high-blood-pressure-new-definitions/.