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Pressure points

Last November, the definition of hypertension (high blood pressure) changed. Here is what you need to know.

NEW GUIDELINES DEVELOPED by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association set a lower threshold for hypertension: 130–139 mm Hg for systolic pressure when heart contracts (top number) and 80–89 for diastolic pressure when the heart relaxes between beats (bottom number). Blood pressure in those ranges is now categorized as Type 1 hypertension. Type 2 hypertension is a systolic reading of at least 140 or a diastolic reading of at least 90. If you have systolic blood pressure of 120–129, your blood pressure is elevated. Normal blood pressure remains less than 120/80.

Monitoring and treating high blood pressure is crucial. Over time, the damage high blood pressure does to arteries can make them more likely to narrow, become clogged with blood clots, or burst, causing heart attack or stroke. Fortunately, you can do a lot to reduce your risk of hypertension.

“Losing excess weight through a combination of exercise and a healthy diet is one of the best things you can do to lower high blood pressure,” says Nancy DeMars, RN, Director of Cardiopulmonary Services at HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals. “Be sure to reduce sodium in your diet and increase potassium. Most importantly, make a plan with your provider and follow it.”

Need a primary care provider to help you stay on top of blood pressure? Visit and click “Find a Health Care Provider.”


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