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Raise Your Awareness, Not Your Stress: Doctors Help Decipher New Blood Pressure Guidelines

Last week the announcement of revamped blood pressure guidelines started sparking conversations – not just in our offices, but in the news as well. Why? Because by changing those guidelines, some say that half of the US population now has what’s considered high blood pressure.

Today, we want to help you understand what these changes mean to you and your heart.

2017: New High Blood Pressure Guidelines

The newly published guidelines come from the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association along with nine other health professional organizations. 21 scientists and health experts reviewed more than 900 published studies to write them. Translation: a lot of work went into these new guidelines.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, earned the nickname “the silent killer” because it can cause heart disease without causing symptoms.  The new recommendations include new ranges to define what is considered high blood pressure.

Defining High Blood Pressure

We think of blood pressure as two numbers: systolic and diastolic. That’s the number you hear your doctor or nurse say, for example, “110 over 70”. Take a look at the chart below to see what the new ranges are.

Infographic depicting blood pressure guidelines for 2017

High Blood Pressure Prevention and Early Detection

It’s important to note; the primary goal of the new guidelines is prevention and early detection. Early detection allows us time to make lifestyle changes that will help keep your blood pressure safe. From a preventive standpoint, the new guidelines aim to reduce illness and ultimately, death, from heart and vascular disease. By placing an emphasis on lifestyle changes that can help keep blood pressure in a healthy range, we can prevent heart disease and stroke from happening.

The new guidelines lower the level at which doctors will be paying attention to blood pressure, and remove the category of pre-hypertension.

How Do I Know My Blood Pressure?

The new guidelines also emphasize the importance of using proper technique to measure blood pressure. Patients can check blood pressure at home. However, the use of validated devices is recommended. So seeing a medical professional is key to having reliable readings.

What Does Risk for Heart Disease and Stroke Have to Do with Blood Pressure?

Because high blood pressure can lead to heart disease and stroke, the new blood pressure guidelines take into consideration if you’ve suffered from, or are at risk for, a heart attack or stroke. Patients who are at higher risk of these complications or who have already had a heart attack or stroke may need stricter blood pressure control and/or different targets.

Learn More About Diet and Exercise Changes for Your Blood Pressure and Heart Health

We’ve covered heart healthy diet and exercise extensively on our blog, The Heart Health Doctors. Lifestyle habits play an influential role in heart health and blood pressure management.

Simple habits like regular exercise, following the DASH diet, boosting potassium in your diet, and limiting alcohol and sodium are great for getting to ideal blood pressure, and might be the initial steps recommended by your doctor before resorting to medication.

Still have questions about your heart health? OhioHealth can help with programs, physicians and more.

Headshot photo of Anne Albers, MD

About Anne Albers, MD

Dr. Anne Albers is a cardiologist with OhioHealth in Columbus, Ohio. She is a cardiovascular imaging specialist focusing on echocardiography, cardiac stress testing, and vascular studies. Dr. Albers maintains an active consultative cardiovascular practice; her clinical interests include cardiovascular disease management for women, cardiac issues for athletes, primary and secondary prevention of heart and vascular disease, and heart disease in diabetes. At OhioHealth, she developed the Women’s Heart & Vascular Program, is co-director of the Sports Cardiology Program, and is a member of the OhioHealth Vascular Institute.

She holds RVT (VT) designation from the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, is a diplomate of the American Board of Vascular Medicine and is a member of the Society for Vascular Medicine. She was the first social media editor for the journal Vascular Medicine, Journal for the Society for Vascular Medicine and serves on the Vascular Medicine editorial board.


Headshot photo of Kanny Grewal, MDAbout Kanny Grewal, MD

Dr. Kanny Grewal has been with OhioHealth Heart & Vascular Physicians since 1997 and is currently the system chief of cardiac imaging for OhioHealth. He practices at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, specializing in cardiac imaging, including echocardiography, nuclear imaging and cardiac CT imaging. His clinical interest includes heart disease prevention and heart valve disease, but he enjoys providing consultations on all aspects of cardiology. He is currently on the board of directors of the Columbus Medical Association. Dr. Grewal is an avid runner and also enjoys cycling and golf.