Senior Lifestyles: The new definition of high blood pressure

Published 5:47 pm Thursday, February 15, 2018

As if Americans — about 66 percent of whom are overweight — didn’t have enough problems with maintaining their health and being concerned with the growing problem of Type II diabetes, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have just released new guidelines for blood pressure. 

They lowered the diagnostic threshold for stage 1 high blood pressure, from the previous level of 140/90 to the new lower levels of 130/80. That translates to a very serious issue, as nearly half of all adult Americans—more than 100 million, will be considered to have high blood pressure under these new guidelines.

Using the old guidelines, people were considered to have prehypertension, not actual high blood pressure. With more than 900 studies over a three year period, though, there is now evidence to prove that your risks go up if your systolic blood pressure — the amount of pressure in your arteries during contraction of the heart muscle — is higher than 130. 

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Systolic blood pressure is the first number of your blood pressure reading, and was previously considered acceptable if it fell in the range of 130-139. Today, with that same reading, you are considered to be at double the risk of a heart attack, stroke, and heart and kidney failure than adults with the systolic readings lower than 130.

The segment of the population most likely to feel the greatest impact will be adult men and women under the age of 45. If medical professionals follow these new guidelines, it is going to mean a small windfall for the pharmaceutical companies who provide medicines to treat high blood pressure, as at least another 4.2 million people will be prescribed those drugs.

There are, of course, ways to lower your blood pressure that have often been stated in my previous articles. It’s a lot safer to change your lifestyle and eliminate, or at least dramatically reduce, the risks associated with high blood pressure than it is to spend your lifetime at a higher risk of serious consequences, and spending money on the drugs needed to treat it.

These simple, and as we know, often challenging changes to your lifestyle include:

• Losing weight

• Eating healthy foods

• Cutting down on processed food

• Lowering your salt intake

• Increasing potassium-rich foods such as bananas, spinach sweet potatoes (without butter or brown sugar)

• Exercising regularly

• Eliminating all tobacco use, and moderating your consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Another is to invest in a home blood pressure monitoring device. For some people, their blood pressure readings go up 10 to 20 points when taken in the doctor’s office due to what is called “white-coat hypertension.” 

These devices are simple to use,  and are capable of measuring heart rate as well, and keep a digital record of the most recent readings. These can be found online at Amazon for less than $60, and it’s a smart investment in helping you maintain your health.

Ron Kauffman is a consultant and expert speaker on issues of Aging. His wife’s geriatric management practice serves clients in Henderson, Polk and Brevard Counties.  He is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease,” available as a Kindle book on He and his wife may be contacted at 828-696-9799 or by email at