Quick, what’s your blood pressure?
In November 2017, The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) released a new set of guidelines that reclassifies the limits of what’s considered high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.
And they could seem a bit shocking. At first.
Why? Because the cutoffs for hypertension used to be a systolic number of 140 and a diastolic number of 90 (or 140/90).
But now the AHA and ACC classify hypertension as 130/80.
Which means that about 46% of all Americans will now be considered hypertensive.
From the ACC, here are the new blood pressure guidelines:
- Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg
- Elevated: A top number between 120-129 and bottom number less than 80
- Stage 1: Top of 130-139 or bottom between 80-89
- Stage 2: Top at least 140 or bottom at least 90
- Hypertensive crisis: Top over 180 and/or bottom over 120. This requires immediate medical attention and, possibly, hospitalization
If you compare the old guidelines versus the new, you’ll notice that the AHA and ACC have eliminated the prehypertension category altogether. Now, you’re either hypertensive, or you’re not.
According to Consumer Reports, this “new definition will especially affect younger people, tripling the number or men under age 45 considered to have hypertension and doubling the number of women under age 45 with that condition.”
What if I’m now considered hypertensive?
If you’re saying to yourself, “Uh oh. Suddenly I’ve got high blood pressure,” don’t stress. The good news is that most people who fall into this elevated level probably don’t need medication.
In fact, these new blood pressure guidelines suggest that if you’re now hypertensive, you only need to consider medication if you’ve already had a stroke or heart attack. (Or if your doctor thinks you’re likely to have a stroke or heart attack.)
Instead, you should lower your blood pressure naturally by changing your diet, exercise, and lifestyle.
Now for food. Start by noting or cutting back on your sodium intake. You may also consider increasing your potassium through whole fruits and vegetables.
If you’re looking for inspiration, see if your employer offers programs to track your food and steps. Research shows that tracking your steps increases physical activity by more than 26%!