"Yes, You Do!" - The New Blood Pressure Guidelines
Updated: May 20
I don’t expect most people to know the details about medical conditions or procedures. That’s why I created this website. But I would bet my sister’s next paycheck (yes, I’m non-committal) what you think normal blood pressure is. You would probably say “120/80.” Right?
This has been the number preached and programmed into the layperson and many healthcare workers for years. For so long you have believed that, if you saw these numbers, or something close to this, you were “fine.” “My blood pressure is normal.” Nope! Not only is 120/80 not a normal reading, but it is Hypertension - Stage 1, according to the American Heart Association.
Okay, don’t start blaming the medical community for changing the rules all of a sudden. Medical recommendations change because we become smarter. Not in an egotistical, narcissistic way…we learn from our research.
There is proven data that uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to a laundry list of potentially fatal medical conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, dementia; the list goes on and on. The new guidelines should be used as an awareness of elevated blood pressure and incite more urgency in improving the overall numbers.
Most people may think that the only way that high blood pressure can only be controlled or prevented is by eating lettuce and licking lemons for flavor. Don’t be dramatic. Most people don’t realize that small, consistent lifestyle changes can play a significant role in lowering and optimizing blood pressure.
So, here are seven things you need to “STOP” in order to help prevent and/or control elevated blood pressure readings:
Stop Stressing: It is true that your mood and management of stressful situations can have a positive effect on your blood pressure. Don’t think that just because your blood pressure is elevated by stress that your body can differentiate on how it will respond. Your blood pressure being too high can still give you a heart attack, regardless of why your pressure was high.
Stop Licking French Fries: Not literally. Stop with the extra salt. Order fries and warm soft pretzels without salt. Sodium is in salt and excess sodium can cause your blood pressure to be higher. The average healthy person should have less than 2300 milligrams of sodium per day...that's about a teaspoon of salt. So before you purchase your favorite can of soup or add salt to your tomato slices, reconsider if you really need that extra sodium.
Stop Sitting: Move! (Wait until you finish this post first) Walking, dancing, strength training, or any aerobic movement can get your heart into shape and lower your blood pressure. Remember, you have to exercise regularly in order to see long term results. And if you already have a heart condition or high blood pressure, make sure you get permission and recommendations from your doctor on which exercise is best for you.
Stop buying the next size in clothes: I know this is a touchy subject, but someone has to say it. When you have ….um…more “you” than your body expected, your heart pumps harder and can lead to consistently elevated blood pressure. Okay, that’s enough of being politically correct. Obesity is a risk factor for high blood pressure. There is data that shows that a loss of a small percentage of your body weight can decrease your blood pressure.
Stop NOT taking your meds: I’m sure I just contributed to multiple people’s cardiac arrest, including my editor, with that grammatically incorrect statement. But it’s true! If you receive a prescription that says, “take one tablet twice a day with meals” then please follow those instructions. Some of the medications cannot be stopped abruptly, as it may lead to an adverse event. If you find that your body ‘doesn’t agree’ with your medicine, call your doctor immediately.
Stop ignoring your body: Your body can tell you when you aren’t feeling your best. High blood pressure does not always present with symptoms. However, if your blood pressure has been high for a while, you may notice a few warning signs: persistent headaches, chest pain, heart palpitations, swelling in your legs and feet, shortness of breath with only a little movement. Now, I’m not saying all of the previous is always going to be related to high blood pressure, but it could be said that none of those symptoms are normal. Go get it checked out.
Stop thinking this blog post doesn’t apply to you! Hypertension is not called the “silent killer” without reason. You can walk around with elevated blood pressures that need medical attention and not know it. Make sure you have your blood pressure checked regularly at your doctor’s appointments. Find out what your healthy numbers should be.
High blood pressure is manageable and can be controlled and even prevented if you know what to do. You only get one “YOU.”
Dr. Gina Simone
For more information: American Heart Association, www.heart.org