New High Blood Pressure Guidelines – What Does This Mean?

For the first time in 14 years, high blood pressure guidelines have changed.  With the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines in place, nearly 46% of the U.S. adult population will find themselves having high blood pressure.

What changed?

Medical experts used to consider someone to have high blood pressure if their systolic blood pressure was 140 and their diastolic blood pressures was 90 (140/90). The new guidelines consider 130/80 or over to be high blood pressure. By lowering the numbers, medical experts hope to motivate individuals to be more proactive toward their health and prevent complications associated with high blood pressure.

What are the new guidelines exactly?

The new categories for different levels of hypertension have eliminated the category of pre-hypertension:

  • 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.

What does this mean?

The big change is that medical providers will end up labeling many more people with hypertension and also recommending drug treatment for many more people. The goal is that more aggressive treatment will reduce life-threatening heart attacks and strokes. People need to make their personal health a greater priority!

In honor of February being American Heart Month, begin your journey towards better heart health by eating a balanced diet.

Monitor your salt intake. Avoid adding extra salt to your meals, as well as limit the amount of processed foods you consume, as they are often high in sodium. You should not consume more than 2,300 mg of salt per day. Adults who already have hypertension should limit their sodium intake to 1,500 mg.

Next time you’re at the grocery store, fill your basket with low-sodium foods like:

  • Fresh, canned or frozen fruits, juices or low sodium canned juices
  • Fresh or frozen vegetables or unsalted canned vegetables
  • Canola, olive, corn, cottonseed, peanut, safflower, soybean or sunflower oil
  • Low-sodium salad dressing or mayonnaise
  • Unsalted margarine or butter
  • Cooked cereals: Corn grits, farina, oatmeal, oat bran, cream of rice, cream of wheat (do not use the instant variety)
  • Flavors and sauces: Unsalted tomato sauce or tomatoes or vinegar
  • Snacks: Graham and animal crackers, fig bars, ginger snaps, melba toast, matzo crackers and popcorn without salt or fat
  • Fresh or frozen fish, chicken, turkey, beef, veal, pork or lamb that is not breaded
  • Dried beans, peas, lentils, unsalted or dry roasted nuts or seeds, unsalted peanut butter and tofu

Stay away from high-sodium foods like:

• Boxed mixes, such as pancake, muffin, pudding, cake or pie mixes
• Buttermilk, canned milk, egg substitute (limit to one half cup/day), eggnog, salted butter or margarine
• Bouillon, canned broth, dry soup mixes and canned soups (even low sodium ones)

• Canned meats, canned fish, cured meats, all types of sausage, sandwich meats, peanut butter and salted nuts
• Pre-seasoned mixes for tacos, spaghetti, chili and coating mixes
• Pre-seasoned convenience foods – ready to heat and eat
• Olives, pickles, pretzels, chips and skins
• Gatorade or athletic drinks

View the full list from MedStar VNA.

Watch what you drink. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Avoid drinking caffeine daily and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Other tips:

  • Avoid red meat.
  • Read the labels before buying food/beverage products.
  • Last but not least, exercise! Taking out 30 minutes of your day on a daily basis to participate in physical activities will not only help you maintain a healthy weight, but it will help you manage your stress levels as well. Check out our heart healthy exercises blog!

Additional Resources:

American College of Cardiology American Heart Association Everyday Health

Health Line



How to Prevent Falls

Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.

We can never predict the future, but we can be proactive about the steps to ensure a safe home environment and lifestyle. One of the most common causes of non-fatal injuries and hospital visits for trauma are falls. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce risk and  prevent falling.

Addressing the Myths vs. the Reality about Falls

According to the National Council on Aging, there are three common myths about falling:

Myth 1: Other people fall, but I won’t fall.

Reality: One-quarter of seniors fall every year in the U.S. The belief that “it won’t happen to me” is dangerous, because it can happen to anyone. The good news: there are actions you can take to prevent falls. For example, wearing appropriate shoes or keeping throw rugs and other tripping hazards out of your path, are among the ways you can prevent yourself and your older loved ones from falling. You can find a full list of fall prevention ideas here.

CDC falls startling stats

Myth 2: As I age, falling is normal.

Reality: Falling has everything to do with safety precautions and nothing to do with your age.  From wearing the proper footwear, to improving strength and balance through exercise, to having your vision checked, all of these actions can reduce your risk of falling.


Myth 3: Taking medication doesn’t increase my risk of falling.

Reality: There are many medications that have side effects that can actually increase the risk for a fall.  Some medications make you dizzy or sleepy, which greatly increases your risk of falling. Others may make it difficult to think clearly or make you feel light headed or off balance. It’s important to talk to your doctor about the side effects of the medications you’re taking to understand if they may increase your fall risk.

CDC preventable problem

Preventing Fall Risks at Home


  • Use non-slip rugs with rubber backing
  • Wrap up lose wires and cords or tape them down to the floor. Keep them out of walkways.
  • Keep pathways clear of excessive furniture
  • Keep floors clear of items that can cause someone to trip like shoes, magazines, pets, etc


  • Fix loose or uneven steps
  • Install handrails on both sides.
  • Attach non-slip rubber tread to steps
  • Increase lighting at the top and bottom of stairs and turn them on when using the stairs
  • Do not leave items laying on the steps


  • Ensure lamps are easy to reach
  • Use night lights
  • Store flashlights near your bed where you can easily reach them, in case of a power outage


  • Keep often-used items in easy-to-reach places
  • Never use a chair as a step stool
  • Wipe up spills immediately


  • Add grab bars next to toilets and inside showers
  • Use a non-slip rubber mat or self-adhesive strips on the floor of the tub and shower
  • Add a raised toilet seat to assist with going from sitting to stand or vise versa.
  • Use a shower chair or bench to sit on when taking a shower

For an easy-to-use guide, download this simple home checklist provided by Ohio Health to make sure your home is fall proof.

Additional Resources:


Article contributed by:  Jennifer Grant, physical therapist, MedStar Visiting Nurse Association