Under new guidelines instituted by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, high blood pressure, which was once defined as 140/90 millimeters of mercury or greater, is now 130/80.
The new recommendation stems from the results of a federally-funded study, called “Sprint,” published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2015. It is estimated that under the new regulations, the number of American adults with high blood pressure will rise from 72 million to 103 million. Of those, an estimated 4.2 million will be new candidates for high blood pressure medication, reports The New York Times.
The government-funded study observed two groups of individuals over the age of 50 who were already predisposed to cardiovascular health issues. The researchers studied a high target group with a systolic blood pressure of less than 140 and a low target group with a systolic blood pressure of less than 120.
The chief finding was that the low target group had 25% fewer cardiovascular issues (such as stroke or heart attack) than the high target group.
Gilbert Welch, a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, noted in an oped in The New York Times that the 25% reduction was the difference between 8% in the high target group and 6% in the low target group.
“Relative changes — like a 25% reduction — always sound impressive,” wrote Welch, the author of “Less Medicine, More Health: 7 Assumptions That Drive Too Much Medical Care.”
Here’s an opportunity to educate your customers about other ways to reduce the risk of hypertension. Regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle are the first two ways.
The popular Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet — which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish, low-fat dairy foods, and lots of potassium — has been shown to lower hypertension through healthy eating habits.
Doctors also recommend reducing sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams (mg) a day for those who have hypertension or are at high risk of developing hypertension (people age 51 or older and individuals of any age who are black). Experts also recommend consuming alcohol in moderation and abstaining from smoking tobacco, as it restricts blood vessels.
Healthy weight management is also key for maintaining healthy blood pressure. For overweight people, blood pressure can drop by one point for every 2.2 pounds of weight lost. Aerobic exercise for 90 to 150 minutes per week can lower blood pressure five to eight points.
In terms of supplements, look for things with fiber (such as blond psyllium and wheat bran), minerals (such as magnesium, calcium and potassium), folic acid, nitric oxide boosters (such as cocoa, coenzyme Q10, L-arginine or garlic), and omega-3 fatty acids (such as fish oil supplements or flaxseed). Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques may also help to reduce blood pressure and stress level.
What you consumed or did immediately before your blood pressure was taken can also cause an unusual spike.