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Help Keep Your Heart Healthy by Keeping Your Blood Pressure on Track

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Is your blood pressure at a healthy level? Keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level is important to help prevent heart attacks, strokes, and other heart problems. New guidelines released by a group of experts talk about new ways for patients to manage high blood pressure as well as ways for doctors to treat patients with high blood pressure.

The basics about blood pressure

Blood pressure is a relationship of 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. Guidelines for normal blood pressure have been 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury).

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 changes are best if I have high blood pressure?
  • What is a healthy blood pressure level?

The study found that:

  • People aged 60 years or older with high blood pressure should aim for a blood pressure level of less than 150/90.
  • People aged 30 to 59 years should aim for a diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number of my blood pressure result) 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 for high blood pressure 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 diet (lean meat, low-fat proteins, and plenty of veggies and fruits), keeping weight under control, and exercising more can help improve your blood pressure and reduce the need for blood pressure medicines.

Blood pressure medicines may be needed though, so you should talk with your doctor to find out what medicines may work best for you. Be sure to see your doctor often if you have high blood pressure to make sure the medicines you are taking are working to lower your blood pressure and keep your heart healthy!

 

Reviewed by Robert Ehrman, MD and Fran Daniel, MPH

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