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


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