AHA and ACC Update Blood Pressure Categories

 

The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiologists have announced new blood pressure categories, changing what defines high blood pressure from 140/90 mmHg to 130/80 mmHg.

This is a lower cut point for the diagnosis of high blood pressure, and this shift creates new blood pressure categories as well. The purpose of the change is to help individuals lower their blood pressure at an earlier stage of hypertension instead of waiting until the condition is more advanced.

THE NEW CATEGORIES:

Here are the revised blood pressure categories:

  • Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg
  • Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80
  • Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89
  • Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg
  • Hypertensive Crisis: Systolic over 180 and/or diastolic over 120, with patients needing prompt changes in medication if there are no other indications of problems, or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage.

KEY CHANGES:

  • The single biggest change in the guidelines is that high blood pressure used to need a reading of 140/80. Now high blood pressure can be diagnosed at 130/80 instead, which means that far more people have "high blood pressure"  now. The previous threshold, 140/80, is now considered "stage 2 high blood pressure."
  • While the rules for what blood pressure reading is considered "normal" remain the same, "prehypertension" as a category has shifted and is now known as "elevated."
  • All ages are included in this update, but the guidelines now state that a medical opinion is needed for older persons.

Here is the chart from the American Heart Association:

Blood Pressure and Hypertension Chart

My team and I have already updated the blood pressure and heart health posters with this new information and are working on the rest of our materials now. If you'd like a new guide to high blood pressure, don't miss this amazing poster, which we just redesigned today!

If you'd like to share more information about preventing and/or reducing high blood pressure, I've collected some of our best resources below.

THE DASH DIET:

If the goal is to lower blood pressure and enjoy a healthful eating plan, then the DASH diet is a fantastic resource. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) trial published in The New England Journal of Medicine is one of the recommended eating plans from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines and is especially good for managing blood pressure. The DASH diet lowers blood pressure by including higher amounts of potassium, magnesium and calcium in an eating pattern, even without reducing sodium.

The Effects of Sodium:

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, "you can take action to prevent high blood pressure by reducing sodium (salt) intake." The CDC backs up this claim, asserting "Most Americans consume too much sodium, and it raises blood pressure in most people." Reduce the salt in your diet by cutting back on frozen, canned, and restaurant foods (huge sources of sodium), and checking the Nutrition Facts panel on the foods you buy. Choose options with less salt. Remember, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises people to "Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease."

Benefits of Physical Activity:

"Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. For adults, the Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling, every week. Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity every day" (source).

What more do you need to know? Being physically active can help you reduce your risk of hypertension in two ways -- by directly helping lower your blood pressure, and by helping you manage your weight, which is another high blood pressure risk factor. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, "Being active and maintaining a healthy weight also can help you prevent high blood pressure." Talk with your doctor about fun ways to get active as soon as you can.

You can read more about this new update here.

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