Is Your Blood Pressure Still Normal According to the 2017 Guidelines?

If you believe that a 120/80 blood pressure reading is still normal, you’re pretty outdated. The latest 2017 “Guidelines for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adult” has been established to update the hypertension guidelines that were established 14 years ago in 2003.

The latest guidelines were made based on latest medical studies. Additional information on the health risks of blood pressure associated with cardiovascular diseases (CVD), blood pressure monitoring, certain measures to improve blood pressure, and other important concepts was also updated.

Getting to Know Your Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure

Your blood pressure is the pressure that your circulating blood exerts on the walls of your blood vessels. Blood pressure readings have two numbers, one over the other, expressed in millimeter mercury (mmHg).

The first number above the bar line is your systolic blood pressure (SBP). It refers to the maximum pressure exerted in a single heartbeat. The other number is your diastolic blood pressure (DBP).

It is the pressure exerted on the walls of your blood vessels during the resting phase between each heartbeat.

Your heart, blood, and blood vessels are the three main components of your cardiovascular system. Any change in the structure or composition of these three will affect your blood pressure reading.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), your systolic blood pressure is given more emphasis in the fight against hypertension. As your age increases, your systolic blood pressure also rises. This can be attributed to age-related physiologic changes in your body such as reduced elasticity of the blood vessels and accumulation of plaque deposits in the arterial wall.

What Do the 2017 Guidelines Say?

The 2017 guidelines have set the bar a little higher for those of you who want to maintain a normal blood pressure. Unlike the previous years, a blood pressure reading of 120/80 is no longer interpreted as a normal blood pressure. Here are the latest interpretations:

  • Normal blood pressure.

    • You have a normal BP if your systolic is less than 120 mmHg and your diastolic is less than 80 mmHg.

    • Having a normal blood pressure doesn’t mean that you can already indulge in an unhealthy lifestyle. You are still being encouraged to observe good lifestyle habits and monitor your blood pressure regularly.

  • Elevated blood pressure.

    • In the previous classification, a blood pressure of 120 to 139 over 80 to 89 was considered as prehypertension.

    • In the latest update, however, elevated blood pressure has been added in the list and if you have a systolic BP of 120 to 129 mmHg and a diastolic BP of less than 80 mmHg, you are under this category.

    • The good news is, your doctor might not prescribe you with drugs to lower your blood pressure just yet. This category only needs proper blood pressure monitoring and lifestyle modifications.

  • Hypertension Stage 1.

    • Previously, you needed to have a blood pressure reading of 140 mmHg before you reach this stage.

    • In the latest updates, however, if your systolic BP is between 130 and 139 mmHg or your diastolic BP is from 80 to 89 mmHg, you are already in stage 1.

    • If your blood pressure reading is under this category and you also have an atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, your physician might prescribe you with drugs to lower your blood pressure. Otherwise, lifestyle modification and blood pressure monitoring are enough.

  • Hypertension Stage 2.

    • You are in stage 2 if your systolic BP is 140 mmHg or higher, or if your diastolic BP reads 90 mmHg or higher.

    • Aside from lifestyle modifications, you will be required to take BP-lowering drugs to manage your blood pressure.

What You Should Do

Regardless of the classification you are in, the American Heart Association still recommends certain ways to control your blood pressure or to prevent it from worsening.

  • Increase your intake of foods that are rich in fiber such as fruits and vegetables.

  • Limit your intake of sodium and saturated fats, which are found in dairy products.

  • Try to maintain or lower your body weight to achieve a normal body-mass index (BMI).

  • Stop smoking and limit your alcohol intake to a maximum of 1-2 drinks per day.

  • Check your blood pressure regularly. Home-based blood pressure monitoring is highly encouraged.

  • Whether you are using a manual or an automated blood pressure monitoring device, make sure that you store them properly to prevent damages that might lead to inaccurate readings.

  • Be physically active. Try to exercise regularly or engage in outdoor recreational activities.

There are many factors that can contribute to an elevated blood pressure and they vary from person to person. Visit your healthcare provider for more personalized inputs and focused treatment options on how you can maintain, manage, or lower your blood pressure.