ROCHESTER, Minn. – The American Heart Association is changing the guidelines for high blood pressure for the first time in more than a decade.
A systolic reading under 120 is still considered normal. A reading between 120-129 was considered high normal, but is now considered elevated blood pressure.
Because the American Heart Association lowered the numbers, nearly half the U.S. adult population is living with hypertension and at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.
According to the new guidelines, a systolic blood pressure readings between 130-139 is considered stage 1 hypertension and a reading over 140 is considered stage 2 hypertension. People with these blood pressure levels may need medication to help lower their blood pressure.
Rose Mary and Verlyn Pool have struggled with their blood pressure and are both on medication to help with it. They said the new lower numbers should make more people concerned.
“Along with my diabetes, it’s a two-edged sword I think,” Verlyn Pool said. “And how am I going to get down any lower?”
The new guidelines emphasize making sure blood pressure readings are accurate.
Many pharmacies and stores allow you to check your blood pressure with a free machine. You’re also able to buy a machine to take your blood pressure at home. Medical professionals say to check the accuracy of the device by comparing readings to the ones at the doctor’s office, take more than one reading to be accurate, and record your readings in a diary for your doctor to see any trends.
“Just like a regular nurse uses. It pumps itself up automatically and shows you the reading and the heartbeat and everything,” Pool said.
Medical professionals suggest making lifestyle changes like exercising more and eating less salt to help with high blood pressure.