The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recently released (November 2017) an update to blood pressure guidelines, last published in 2013. The guidelines now state that normal blood pressure is under 120/80, whereas prior to the new guidelines, “normal” was under 140/90. What this means is many people who were considered “normal” before this updated guideline may no longer be.
How is blood pressure measured?
Blood pressure measurements measure the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats and in between beats. These measurements can tell if your blood pressure is normal, high, or low. Blood pressure is expressed in two numbers, the systolic blood pressure (the first/top number), which measures the pressure in the blood vessels when your heart beats. The diastolic blood pressure (the second/bottom number), measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is at rest between beats.
Normal blood pressure is now considered 120/80 mmHg or lower. High blood pressure (hypertension) is 140/90 mmHg or more. Levels between 120/80 and 140/90 are considered prehypertension and mean a person is at high risk for developing high blood pressure.
So now what?
So, if your readings are consistently over 140/90, scoot on over to see your physician for his/her recommendations. For the “new” elevated blood pressure category, medications are actually not recommended; rather, a long list of evidence-based, non-drug interventions are. Things like a diet high in fruits and vegetables (such as the DASH diet, which is naturally high in potassium); decreased salt and bad fats; more activity; weight loss if one is overweight or obese.
Simply changing what you eat can bring down systolic blood pressure as well as other healthy habits (increasing exercise, getting more sleep) that you may adopt.