130\80 is the New 140\90-New High Blood Pressure Guidelines
Nearly one-third of all Americans over age 40 suffer from high blood pressure or about 100 million men and women. High blood pressure is second only to smoking as a preventable cause of heart attacks and strokes, and heart disease is the leading cause of death in Americans. In the past, the benchmark or the upper limit of normal was 140\90. The new guidelines posted by the American Heart Association suggests that the new normal is less than 130\80, especially for men and women who are at risk for heart disease. With the new guidelines, nearly 80% of Americans older than 65 will need to take steps to lower their blood pressure. Even with the old standard 140\90, more than half of patients did not manage to get their blood pressure down to normal.
The guidelines suggest that patients with existing heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes aim for a blood pressure below 130\80 because of the increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Here are some suggestions for lowering your blood pressure without the use of medication:
- Get Regular Exercise
Simply getting out for a brisk walk every day can help to lower your blood pressure. Other forms of exercise that can help include yoga, biking, gardening and dancing. Most experts suggest that you exercise 30 minutes each day. Note that exercise can increase the effectiveness of blood pressure medications, so if you are taking one, be sure to check with your doctor. You may need to reduce your medication over time or even stop it!
- Use Biofeedback
Biofeedback is a mind-body technique that has a calming effect on the autonomic nervous system. This can produce the long-term benefit of lowing blood pressure to a healthy range. Methods include cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation therapy, guided imagery and psychological education.
- Improve Your Diet
I recommend you improve your diet. You can expect substantial improvements in your cholesterol level, blood sugar and blood pressure within two to four weeks, by reducing the salt intake (less than 1500mg\day), and reducing the red meat and other high cholesterol foods in your diet.
- Lose Weight
Even in very overweight men and women, losing only 10 to 20 pounds will often lower blood pressure significantly. I personally used a high protein diet and lost 25 pounds in six weeks.
- Get Enough Sleep
Sleeping fewer than seven or eight hours or getting poor quality sleep can increase blood pressure. This makes sense. Physiologically, anything that increases inflammation or contributes to chronic inflammation is going to negatively affect your cardiovascular system. Sleep is the body’s most effective way of digesting excess stress hormones. Poor sleep hygiene results in your stress hormones remaining elevated, and this increases inflammation throughout your body. This causes your arteries to narrow and even constrict, which results in higher blood pressure.
Transcendental meditation or mindfulness has been proven to bring about a drop in blood pressure. Any style of meditation that you practice regularly can help to lower stress hormones, leading to lower blood pressure.
If these non-medical recommendations aren’t effective, then a visit to your doctor and consideration be given to using medication to help bring the blood pressure into the normal range.
Bottom Line: High blood pressure can be a silent killer, and the new guidelines suggest a target blood pressure of 130\80, especially for those who are older and\or at risk for heart disease or strokes.
Dr. Neil Baum is a Professor of Clinical Urology at Tulane Medical School. He can be reached at 504 891-8454 or through his website, www.neilbaum.com