High blood pressure or hypertension now has a new definition. The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recently introduced the public to new guidelines for this condition.
For many years, the guidelines said that a person has “high blood pressure” when his or her reading is equal to 140/90 millimeters of mercury or higher. According to the new guidelines, a person has hypertension if his or her reading is 130/30 or higher.
The first number is called the “systolic pressure,” and it expresses the pressure that is on the blood vessels every time that the heart beats. The second number is called the “diastolic pressure,” and it measures the time in between each beat.
These new guidelines are very important to many Americans because millions of people are going to be informed that they have hypertension when they have their blood pressures checked the next time that they visit their doctors. Because of the new guidelines, the number of men under the age of 45 who will receive the diagnosis of hypertension will triple. The number of women under the age of 45 who are told the same thing will double.
The last time that diagnostic revisions were made for high blood pressure was in 2003. They believed that the guidelines needed to be revised at this time because the medical community has discovered that pressure that was considered to be normal did not reduce a person’s chances of a stroke or a heart attack. They now believe that the “normal” reading needs to be much lower.
In 2015, a federal study called “SPRINT” stated that if the guidelines were lowered from 140/90 to 130/80, it would be easier to combat cardiovascular disease and prevent many deaths.
Under the current guidelines, 72 million Americans have high blood pressure. When physicians begin to consult the new guidelines, it is estimated that 103 million Americans will receive the diagnosis. Does this mean that the number of Americans who are taking medications that lower blood pressure will increase?
It appears that the answer to the question above is “no.” It is estimated that 31 million additional Americans will be diagnosed with hypertension, but only 4.2 million of them will need to be prescribed medications that lower the blood pressure. The others will be able to take the opportunity to exercise and maintain a healthier diet to control their blood pressures.
In the last 80 years, more Americans have died from heart disease than any other cause. Every person in America knows at least one person who has had a stroke, heart attack or received a diagnosis of heart disease. Smoking is the number one cause of stroke and heart attack, but high blood pressure is only second to that risk factor.
Hypertension is considered to be a “silent killer.” When someone has high blood pressure, he or she isn’t necessarily having any symptoms, so it is important have your blood pressure checked when you have your annual physical.
We are hoping that those who will be newly diagnosed with hypertension will be able to lower their blood pressures by changing their lifestyle habits rather than by taking drugs.
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Necessary Lifestyle Changes
We can maintain our blood pressures within the normal range and reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease by making the following lifestyle changes:
Make Better Food Choices.
You have to remember that fruits and vegetables are your friends, and you should eat more of them. These foods are full of magnesium and potassium, but they are also low in salt. Therefore, they will help to improve your vascular system and reduce inflammation.
Take Up Exercising.
Take up a form of exercise for at least one half hour every day. By keeping your heart rate elevated for that amount of time, you can lower your systolic blood pressure by four to nine points.
Drop the Pounds.
A huge risk factor for hypertension is being obese or overweight. This means that you are three times more likely to develop high blood pressure if you are carrying extra pounds.
Eat Less Salt.
You should only be consuming 2,300 milligrams of salt each day. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH diet has helped many people successfully lower their blood pressures.
Consume Less Alcohol.
When one consumes alcohol, the blood pressure has the potential to rise. A man may consume two drinks per day, but a woman should only consume one per day.
Eat More Foods that Are High in Potassium.
Spinach, avocado, orange juice, honeydew melon, bananas, white beans and sweet potatoes all have high levels of potassium. These foods are responsible for causing your blood vessels to relax, but they also reduce sodium.
Stress is a part of a lot of people’s lives, but chronic stress puts you at risk for hypertension. One way to combat stress is to relax. This puts the genes that dilate the blood vessels into action and shuts off the genes that cause constriction and vascular inflammation. Meditation is one good way to help you begin to relax.
Quit Your Nicotine Habit.
The absolute best thing you can do to lower your blood pressure is quit smoking. The nicotine in cigarettes causes your blood vessels to constrict, and this causes your heart to work harder and that leads to high blood pressure. The sole act of quitting smoking will lower your systolic blood pressure by up to eight points.
Treat Your Sleep Apnea.
It is a possibility that sleep apnea causes hypertension. The first thing to do is receive a diagnosis of sleep apnea. The second thing you need to do is treat it with a dental device. You will lower your blood pressure, but you will also get a better night’s sleep.
Dr. David Samadi is a board-certified urologist and is the Chairman of Urology and Chief of Robotic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. His specialty is in diagnosing and treating urologic diseases as well as bladder cancer, kidney cancer and prostate cancer. He uses advanced minimally invasive treatments for the treatment of prostate cancer, such as laparoscopic robotic radical prostatectomy and laparoscopic radical prostatectomy. He also hosted his own show on the Fox News Channel from 2011 to 2016 that was entitled “Sunday Housecall.”