Keep Your Heart Healthy by Lowering Your Blood Pressure
By Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN
Is your blood pressure at a healthy level? This is important to help prevent heart attacks, stroke, and other heart problems. New guidelines released by a group of experts present new ways for patients to manage high blood pressure, as well as ways for healthcare providers to treat patients with high blood pressure.
Blood pressure basics
Blood pressure is a relationship between two numbers: systolic and diastolic pressures. Systolic pressure is the top number that measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. Diastolic pressure is the bottom number that measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats. Normal blood pressure used to be 120/80 mmHg, but this has changed slightly with the new guidelines.
New blood pressure guidelines
The new guidelines for blood pressure address:
- What blood pressure goal is healthy?
- When do I need to take medicine or change my habits for high blood pressure?
- What medicine or lifestyle changes are best if I have high blood pressure?
What is now considered a healthy blood pressure level?
- People aged 60 years or older with high blood pressure should aim for a level of less than 150/90.
- People aged 30 to 59 years should aim for a diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) of less than 90. There is not enough information to set a goal for systolic blood pressure (the top number of my blood pressure result) for people in this age group.
- People less than 60 years of age should aim for a blood pressure level less than 140/90.
When should blood pressure treatment be started?
The blood pressure level that is considered too high has not changed—it is still 140/90. The authors of the study found that the level when medicines should be started is 150/90. People who have blood pressure between 140/90 and 150/90 should use lifestyle changes (like eating less fatty foods, getting more exercise, or quitting smoking) to try to get their blood pressure lower.
What blood pressure treatments are best?
The new guidelines suggest that a healthy meal plan (with plenty of veggies, fruits and protein), keeping weight under control, and exercising more can help improve your blood pressure and reduce the need for medicines. If you do need medicine, however, be sure to work closely with your healthcare provider to decide which one is best for you.
Reviewed by Robert Ehrman, MD
Reviewed by Fran Daniel, MPH