By Gordon Cohen MD PhD FACS, Chief Medical Officer at PRO Sports Club
SPONSORED — The American Heart Association recently came out with new blood pressure guidelines. It suggested that many of us who thought our blood pressure was normal might actually have a high blood pressure problem.
Systolic vs. Diastolic blood pressure
When you record blood pressure, there are two numbers. There is an upper number and a lower number. The upper number is called the systolic blood pressure and the lower number is the diastolic blood pressure.
The systolic blood pressure is how much pressure your blood is exerting against the walls of your arteries when the heart contracts, when it beats.
The diastolic blood pressure, the lower number, is how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart is resting between beats.
People are used to hearing numbers like 120 over 80 as an ideal blood pressure. The previous guidelines stated that hypertension was a blood pressure of 140 over 90 or higher, with an intermediate category called pre-hypertension. The new recommendation has eliminated the category of pre-hypertension and redefined normal blood pressure as being a blood pressure of 130 over 80. Anything above that is considered hypertension.
With this new definition, an estimated 46 percent of the United States will now be identified as having high blood pressure, and the greatest impact is expected among younger people, highlighting that they may be at risk of having a heart attack in the future or some other cardiovascular event because of hypertension or high blood pressure.
Find your baseline
Your blood pressure changes throughout the course of the day. It can change based on the activities you are doing or on your position whether you are lying down, sitting in a chair or standing up. If you exercise or if you are stressed at work. Anxiety alone can raise your blood pressure. Many things can affect your blood pressure, so it is important to capture what your baseline blood pressure is.
Ideally, your blood pressure is checked in the morning with a reliable at home monitor when you wake, up and are at rest in a consistent setting so you can track a consistent reading. But there are many ways to track your blood pressure. Most pharmacies now have blood pressure machines. If you can go visit these locations in a relaxed state, sit down, and check your blood pressure. It is important to not accept a single reading as being evidence of having high blood pressure, and equally important to not accept a single reading as being evidence of having normal blood pressure. Check it on a regular basis, and if you start to see that you are borderline or high on multiple visits then you need to go and see your doctor.
What does that mean?
This does not mean that if you have a systolic reading of 130 you have to start taking medication. The authors of this study recommended that people go and see their doctor and talk about whether to make lifestyle changes to improve their blood pressure or whether it needs to be treated with medication. Lifestyle changes to improve blood pressure can include eating differently, reducing the stress in your life, losing weight, getting more sleep and exercise.
When making lifestyle changes, it’s beneficial to have a team working with you to give you all the tools you need for success. At PRO Sports Club, the 20/20 Lifestyles program is built on extensive clinical expertise that blends together education, nutrition, exercise, lifestyle coaching, and medical supervision. This unique medically-based program uses sound science to help you lose weight, keep it off, and get your health back in balance.