What the new blood pressure guidelines mean for you

Almost half of U.S. adults are now in the “hypertension” category. Are you?

Wondering if you have high blood pressure? Don’t expect your body to tip you off with many signs and symptoms. More often than not, there are none.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, can increase your risk of stroke, kidney disease and heart disease, and new guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) put almost half of U.S. adults in the “high" category. What's more, many of these people are unaware that they have high blood pressure. 

So how do you know if you’re at risk? It's simple: Make an appointment with your doctor and get your numbers checked.

Understanding the numbers

Blood pressure is measured using two numbers. The first is the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. The second is the pressure in your blood vessels between beats.

The AHA’s thinking on what it considers a healthy range recently shifted. Whereas the heart association used to define high blood pressure as 140/90 and above, it now defines it as 130/80 and above.

The AHA’s complete new guidelines are as follows: 

  • <120 and <80: Normal blood pressure 
  • 120-129 and <80: Elevated blood pressure
  • 130-139 or 80-89: Hypertension, stage 1 
  • >140 or >90: Hypertension, stage 2 
  • >180 and/or >120: Hypertensive crisis stage; consult your doctor immediately.

Even if you’ve been in the normal category in the past, it’s important to get checked again to see where you fall now.

The sooner the better

The new guidelines, which affect more than 30 million Americans, are meant to draw early attention to high blood pressure and allow patients and doctors to take action sooner. While these guidelines can be a useful tool, you and your doctor will need to work together to customize a treatment plan based on your unique circumstances.

“High blood pressure is known as ‘the silent killer,’” says Dr. Dang Tran, MD.  “It’s generally a manageable condition once it’s been diagnosed, but if it goes unchecked, it can more than double your risk for stroke or heart attack. That’s why it’s so important not to put off your regular checkup.”

For some, high blood pressure can be managed with healthy lifestyle changes rather than medication. Eating a well-balanced diet, limiting alcohol and quitting smoking can decrease blood pressure. However, many patients with high blood pressure do require medication, especially as they age. You and your doctor should work together to create a plan that works for you. 

Start a conversation with your doctor about blood pressure. Schedule your physical exam today by calling1-855-FAIRVIEW or your local clinic, requesting an appointment online, or using MyChart.

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