The AHA blood pressure guidelines are set to standardize the treatment plans for the different categories of the condition. Is your heart in tip-top shape? Find out below.
In this article:
- What Is Blood Pressure?
- What Are the New American Heart Association Blood Pressure Guidelines?
- Why Is It Important to Check Your Blood Pressure?
- How Often Should You Check Your Blood Pressure?
- Who Are at Risk For High Blood Pressure?
- How Do You Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure?
Everything You Need to Know About the AHA Blood Pressure Guidelines
What Is Blood Pressure?
As blood travels around the body through arteries, it exerts pressure on the arterial lining. Basically, blood pressure measures how forcefully blood pushes against the walls of the arteries.
There are two figures which make up standard blood pressure results:
- Systolic blood pressure – the pressure against the arterial walls during a heartbeat while the heart is pumping out blood
- Diastolic blood pressure – the pressure against the arterial walls in between heartbeats
Systolic pressure is the first number and diastolic pressure is the second one. These results are usually presented in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
Systolic pressure is usually higher than diastolic pressure. Doctors use blood pressure as an indicator of heart health.
What Are the New American Heart Association Blood Pressure Guidelines?
The American Heart Association (AHA) released new blood pressure guidelines in 2017. These guidelines were updated to help doctors identify warning signs earlier and prevent further complications.
According to the AHA, you have low blood pressure if your:
- systolic blood pressure is less than 90 mmHg
- diastolic blood pressure is less than 60 mmHg
Your blood pressure is normal if your:
- systolic blood pressure is less than 120 mmHg
- diastolic blood pressure is less than 80 mmHg
You may have elevated blood pressure if your:
- systolic blood pressure is between 120 and 129 mmHg
- diastolic blood pressure is less than 80 mmHg
When Do You Have High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure levels higher than the elevated blood pressure levels are considered high blood pressure. According to the AHA blood pressure guidelines, there are three categories of high blood pressure:
- Hypertension stage 1
- Hypertension stage 2
- Hypertensive crisis
The blood pressure levels for hypertension stage 1 are:
- systolic blood pressure between 130-139 mmHg
- diastolic blood pressure between 80-89 mmHg
The blood pressure levels for hypertension stage 2 are:
- systolic blood pressure between 140-179 mmHg
- diastolic blood pressure between 90-119 mmHg
The blood pressure levels for hypertensive crisis stage are:
- systolic blood pressure above 180 mmHg
- diastolic blood pressure above 120 mmHg
If your blood pressure levels fall under the hypertensive crisis stage, it’s important to consult your doctor immediately.
Why Is It Important to Check Your Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is sometimes called “the silent killer.” It’s dangerous because it can be asymptomatic.
This means that even if you have hypertension or high blood pressure, you’ll feel fine. If high blood pressure goes unnoticed and untreated for too long, it may damage the blood vessels.
This could lead to a variety of serious complications such as:
- Poor leg circulation
- Eye problems
- Heart failure
- Kidney failure
It’s important to routinely check your blood pressure to avoid these complications.
How Often Should You Check Your Blood Pressure?
The AHA also offers guidelines for how often to check blood pressure. The regularity of the check-up will depend on your blood pressure category.
Here are the blood pressure check-up recommendations:
- Normal blood pressure – yearly blood pressure check
- Elevated blood pressure – reassessment after 3-6 month
- Low-risk stage 1 hypertension – determine risk using heart disease and stroke assessment; if the risk is low, reassessment and follow-up within 3-6 months
- High-risk stage 1 hypertension – determine risk using heart disease and stroke assessment; if the risk is high, monthly follow-ups
- Stage 2 hypertension – monthly follow-ups
Your personal physicians will have access to your unique medical history, so they may also have individual recommendations for your treatment. For instance, some physicians will require their patients to check their own blood pressure a few times each week at home.
If you’re monitoring your own blood pressure at home, here are a few tips to improve the accuracy of the measurement:
- Try not to drink coffee or alcohol 30 minutes before you intend on measuring your blood pressure.
- Relax for 5-10 minutes before you measure your blood pressure. Sit down on a comfortable chair and don’t cross your legs.
- Make sure your elbow is at the same level as your heart.
- Roll up your sleeves before placing the cuff on. It’s best to wrap it on your skin without any other fabric in-between.
- Avoid talking or multitasking during the test.
There’s always a margin of error when you use a wrist or finger blood pressure monitor. So don’t rely on a single result.
Once the cuff deflates, run the test again and get the average score. If there’s a big difference between the two scores, repeat the test again and compute the average score using all three readings.
Who Are at Risk For High Blood Pressure?
There are several risk factors associated with high blood pressure. The most common risk factors are:
- Genetics – If high blood pressure runs in your family, you’re more likely to develop it as well.
- Race – Certain races, such as African Americans, are at great risk for high blood pressure.
- Advancing age – the older you get, the more at risk you are for high blood pressure.
- Gender – Men under 55 are more likely to have high blood pressure compared to women of the same age. On the other hand, women are more at risk for high blood once they go through menopause.
- Weight – Being overweight or obese increases the likelihood of high blood pressure.
- Sedentary lifestyle – People who don’t get enough physical activity are at risk for elevated blood pressure.
- Unhealthy diet – high sodium diets can lead to fluid retention which may increase blood pressure.
- Poor lifestyle choices – Excessive alcohol intake and tobacco use can cause lasting damage to the cardiovascular system.
Some of these risk factors, such as genetics, gender, and age, are unavoidable. However, there are other risk factors which can be managed by changing lifestyle habits.
How Do You Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure?
Here are a few things you can do to help maintain healthy blood pressure levels:
- Exercise regularly – 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day can help improve your cardiovascular health.
- Be mindful of your diet – Avoid fatty and salty food. Instead, try eating more vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains.
- Keep your weight in check – Try to maintain a healthy body mass index.
- Take supplements – Supplements are a convenient way to get the heart-helpful nutrients you may not be getting from your regular diet. Don’t forget to consult your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you’re on any other medications.
- Take time to relax – It’s important to find ways to manage and cope with daily stressors to avoid high blood pressure.
- Don’t skimp on sleep – Sleep helps your body regulate hormones and stress. Getting a good night’s rest promotes good cardiovascular health.
- Avoid alcohol – Alcohol intake should be limited to two drinks each day for men and one drink each day for women.
- Quit smoking – It’s never too late to quit. Smoking can damage the walls of your arteries and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in three adults have high blood pressure. These AHA guidelines can help you keep track of your heart health.
Even if you may have a predisposition for high blood pressure, there are things you can do to manage it. Talk to your doctor and discuss the lifestyle and medical interventions you can take to keep your heart healthy!
Have you had your blood pressure checked recently? How do you maintain healthy blood pressure? Let us know in the comments section below.