New Guidelines from American College of Cardiology & American Heart Association Aim to Save More Lives
When the nation’s heart experts issued new guidelines in November 2017 lowering the minimum standards for diagnosing high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, many Americans suddenly found themselves in a higher risk category for heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure, the top three medical concerns resulting from high blood pressure.
“The new definition for high blood pressure raised the stakes for patients whose blood pressure was previously considered within normal limits or borderline hypertensive,” says George Fernaine, MD, chief of cardiology at NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn. “It is important to allay patient fears but, at the same time, increase awareness of steps that people can take to keep blood pressure in check.”
The new guidelines define stage 1 high blood pressure as 130/80, which was previously considered within acceptable limits. Stage 2 high blood pressure is now 140/90. The numbers refer to the amount of pressure exerted on blood vessels when the heart is beating and at rest. The revised target is 120/80 or lower. Experts estimate that the new standard will reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes.
A sensible approach to controlling blood pressure, according to Dr. Fernaine, includes making lifestyle changes. For smokers, quitting is the most important step to take. In addition, regular exercise, eating a heart-healthy diet, avoiding high-salt foods, and practicing yoga, meditation, or other means of reducing stress, can contribute to a healthier way of living and lower blood pressure. Dr. Fernaine always reminds patients to watch their weight, take medication as prescribed, and check their blood pressure regularly.
“In addition to lifestyle changes, more people will likely require medication to control high blood pressure, and will need to monitor themselves for medication side effects,” says Dr. Fernaine. “On the upside, the revised recommendations will prevent disability as well as deadly consequences of hypertension. The new blood pressure guidelines will save more lives.”