About one in four adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure. That’s 50 million people. Another 22%, or 45 million, have “pre-high blood pressure”. This modest elevation in pressure doubles the risk of heart attack and stroke but most people are not aware of any problem.
What is a Healthy Blood Pressure?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the heart section, has recently set new blood pressure standards.
Blood Pressure Norms
Normal blood pressure (Low risk) – Less than 120/80
Pre hypertension (Moderate risk) – 120/80 to 139/89
High blood pressure stage 1 (High Risk) – 140/90 to 159/99
High blood pressure stage 2 (Very high risk) – 160/100+
The latest research shows that risk for heart attack and stroke begins to climb at any pressure greater than 115/75. The risk then doubles for every 20-point increase in systolic blood pressure (top number) and every 10-point increase in diastolic pressure. This is why the new definition of “normal”, or a healthy blood pressure, is defined as a pressure less than 120/80.
High Blood Pressure A pressure of 140/90 is called high blood pressure or hypertension. Pressures this high needs treatment by your doctor to prevent serious health complications from occurring such as:
Â· Damage of the eyes leading to blindness
Â· Damage to the kidneys leading to kidney failure
Â· Damage to the arteries leading to heart disease and stroke
Â· Damage to the heart muscle leading to congestive heart failure.
Preventing Disease By keeping blood pressure in a healthy range you significantly reduce your risk for these serious health conditions. By adopting five key health practices you can prevent most high blood pressure from ever occurring and reduce high blood pressure in up to 50-77% of people with stage 1 hypertension.
A recent lifestyle change program called PREMIER2 studied more than 800 people with stage 1 high blood pressure. They were put on a healthy lifestyle program for 6 months to see how many could lower their blood pressure by just making lifestyle changes.
In 6 months, 77% of those with high blood pressure at the start of the study were able to lower their pressure below the 140/90 mark designating high pressure.
Guidelines for Lowering Blood Pressure Here are the five guidelines recommended by NIH for preventing and controlling high blood pressure used in the PREMIER study.
1. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight (BMI less than 25). Even a small weight loss is very helpful. In the PREMIER study participants lost only 10-15 pounds. For every 10-20 pounds lost your blood pressure can be expected to drop by 5-20 points.
2. Eat healthfully. NIH recommends a diet called the “DASH Diet”. It has been used in several studies and has shown good results in lowering blood pressure.
Here are the key points:
Â· Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, at least 8-9 servings daily
Â· Consume low or non-fat dairy products (such as milk or yogurt)
Â· Reduce saturated fat to less than 7% of calories
Â· Eat whole grain breads and cereals daily
Â· Eat nuts daily and choose healthy fats.