By Pauline Garbedian-DeFreitas
Managing Director, Health Solutions Inc.
On Nov. 13, 2017, the American Heart Association announced the first major new blood pressure guidelines with approximately 106 recommendations. (See graphic below).
This is the first extensive update in over a decade, which was announced after careful review by numerous health care professions and organisations.
The new guidelines have eliminated the previous “prehypertension” category and have now added the “Elevated” category. They have advances the previous “Stage 1 hypertension” to now being a “Stage 2” hypertension. Lastly, the new guideline for being diagnosed with hypertension is a reading of 130/80 or higher compared to the previous guideline reading of 140/90 or higher.
What is blood pressure and how is it measured?
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. Blood pressure is read with two numerical readings in a fraction-like equation.
The top number is the Systolic Pressure, which is when the heart beats while pumping blood against the arteries. This is the highest level the blood pressure reaches when the heart beats.
The bottom number is Diastolic Pressure, which is the lowest level your blood reaches as your heart relaxes in between beats.
Blood pressure generally changes based on our activity such as when we are sleeping, when we wake up, are stressed, anxious or excited. For high blood pressure to be diagnosed it must be done by a health care professional, the readings must be assessed at rest two to three times and on different days. Based on the assessment results, your health care professional may diagnose you with Hypertension.
Once diagnosed your health care professional will confirm if your hypertension is a primary disease or secondary due to possible underlying medical issue such as kidney related issues, thyroid problems, blood vessel defects, certain medication use etc. Further testing is recommended to rule out any organ damage as hypertension in many instances is a silent illness and many may have it without exhibiting any symptoms.
Based on the overall assessment findings your health care professional will then determine what the best regime for your treatment will be. Patients need to keep in mind they too must be accountable for their health through required healthier lifestyle changes, being medically complaint and ensure they have appropriate follow-ups. Medication alone will not manage hypertension.
The new guidelines with no doubt increase the population numbers around the world of people being diagnosed with hypertension. The hope for the new blood pressure guidelines is to have people begin thinking about their health, bring attention to the population to know their blood pressure, understand the possible cause(s), use effective strategies to reduce blood pressure which does not always have to involve medication, implement healthier lifestyles and treat hypertension more aggressively when needed to reduce life-threatening heart attacks, strokes and prevent hypertension-related illnesses such as chronic kidney disease.