According to new guidelines issued by the American Heart Association, a blood pressure reading of 120/80 is no longer the gold standard. In fact, the AMA is warning that 120/80 is a warning sign of potential problems in the future.1

While Shawnee Mission Medical Center cardiologist Andrew Waters doesn’t want us to panic about the new guidelines, it’s time to take elevated blood pressure readings much more seriously.

High blood pressure or hypertension previously had a danger line of 140/90; it was at those levels that doctors would stress lifestyle changes and put people on medication. However, 14 years ago, the American Heart Association changed it to 120/80. But under the new guidelines, a number like 120/80 will see your doctor suggesting lifestyle changes in an attempt to both lower your risk and save you from having to be medicated.

Waters said,

“Even before these new guidelines, there was a very significant portion of the population that was hypertensive. Now we are just catching it a little bit earlier so that means we can take steps to correct the issue before it leads to a problem later on, in terms of cardiovascular morbidity, stoke and so on.”2 

Here’s a bit more info about the new blood pressure guidelines, suggested by the American Heart Association:3

  • High blood pressure is now defined as a reading of 130 mm Hg and higher for systolic blood pressure measurement, or a reading of 80 and higher for diastolic measurement.
  • In the first update to comprehensive U.S. guidelines on blood pressure detection and treatment since 2003, the category of prehypertension has been eliminated.
  • While about 14 percent more people will be diagnosed with high blood pressure and counseled about lifestyle changes, there will only be a small increase in those who will be prescribed medication.
  • By lowering the definition of high blood pressure, the guidelines recommend earlier intervention to prevent further increases in blood pressure and the complications of hypertension.

Change can be difficult but you are not alone. If you need help, resources are available. A couple years ago I drastically changed my diet and lifestyle. I’m happier and healthier for it. Check out my story here.

Sources and References

  1. Fox 4 KC, November 13, 2017.
  2. Fox 4 KC, November 13, 2017.
  3. Fox 4 KC, November 13, 2017.