You may have seen the headlines recently announcing new guidelines for blood pressure, which now indicate that blood pressure readings higher than 130/80 are considered high blood pressure (previously this figure was 140/90). According to the American Heart Association, this update may mean more people are diagnosed with hypertension (another word for high blood pressure) and require treatment.
What does this update mean for you? It is important to continue to get screened regularly with your doctor or through a workplace screening. This can help monitor your blood pressure and indicate if there is a risk of hypertension. If you do get an elevated reading that is now considered prehypertension or high blood pressure, talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Each person is different, and depending on your individual numbers and overall health and lifestyle, your doctor will make a specific recommendation to best suit you.
In the meantime, there are things you can do besides taking medication to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure or help manage it if you have hypertension:
Manage your weight. Through healthy nutrition and exercise, work to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
Balanced diet. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt. The DASH diet is one option many healthcare experts recommend for consideration.
Quit tobacco. Whether you smoke or chew, this is a habit you need to stop immediately! It will benefit your health in many ways, including your blood pressure.
Stay active. If you are new to exercise, talk to your doctor before you start exercising, and start small, such as 5-10 minutes of aerobic activity (walking, running, bike riding, etc.) per day. Then work up to exercising most days, 20-60 minutes each day. Include muscle strengthening and flexibility exercises twice a week.
Get off the couch. While intentional periods of exercise are important, it’s just as necessary to stay moving throughout the day. Park a little further away, take stretch breaks, pick the stairs over the elevator – whenever possible, choose to move.
Relax. Easier said than done, but try to find ways to reduce stress. If you have access to an Employee Assistance Program through your employer, reach out to a counselor for help coming up with a plan to address some of the stressors in your life.
Even if you now fall into the category of having high blood pressure, there is a lot you can do to help address this and get healthy. Talk to your doctor to determine the best plan for you.
To learn more, please visit any of the websites below that provide additional information about hypertension guidelines and tips to manage your blood pressure:
- American Heart Association
- CardioSmart (American College of Cardiology)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Mayo Clinic
For Health Advocate members
If you’re a Health Advocate member, call a Personal Health Advocate today to schedule an appointment with your doctor to get screened and discuss blood pressure.