What You Need to Know About the New AHA Guidelines
In 2017, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued new High Blood Pressure Guidelines and changed the criteria for the diagnosis of high blood pressure (or hypertension). With this update, more adults may have blood pressures that meet the criteria for a diagnosis of high blood pressure. Overall, approximately 46 percent of adults in the United States will be diagnosed with high blood pressure based upon the new guidelines.
Getting to Know the New Numbers
Having high blood pressure increases a person’s risk for a future heart attack, stroke, heart failure and / or kidney disease. For this reason, it’s important for everyone to be aware of their blood pressure numbers, to know if they have high blood pressure and to take steps to lower it.
There are two important points that everyone should be aware of about these new guidelines.
- Any adult with an average blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg or higher now meets criteria for a hypertension diagnosis (the previous level was 140/90 mmHg).
- It’s recommended that you regularly check your blood pressure at home, even if it was normal during a recent clinic visit.
- If you already have high blood pressure, monitoring your blood pressure at home will help make sure it’s in a healthy range.
- An upper arm cuff with an automatic monitor (available at many drug stores and pharmacies) is generally recommended.
What Can I Do to Improve My Blood Pressure?
There are key steps that everyone can take to lower their blood pressure or prevent the development of high blood pressure, such as –
- Eat a well-balanced, low-salt diet
- Limit alcohol
- Enjoy regular physical activity
- Manage stress
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, your physician will likely suggest that you start taking blood pressure medication, sometimes more than one. Nobody wants to be taking medication, but these drugs are generally safe if taken as prescribed, and can really do a lot to improve your blood pressure.