heart check

What is High Blood Pressure?

I’m sure that everyone reading this is familiar with a Blood Pressure Reading – we all get it taken whenever we go in to see the doctor for any reason. We also all know that being on the lower end of the scale is best and that having “High” Blood Pressure is not good. Agreed?

This blog post is going to cover what is Blood Pressure, what the 2 numbers in a reading represent, and how the new guidelines / categories for High Blood Pressure, published in Nov 2017 by the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and 9 other organizations, affect who gets medications and/or hospitalization.

Did you even know that there was a change to the guidelines? That they lowered the limits for high blood pressure? Well, read on to find out all about it.

The Basics

So, on to the basics to make sure that we all understand / start from the same place. If you already know these basics then you can skip down to the New Categories.

The simplest and most understandable definition I found was from THE AMERICAN HERITAGE® DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, FIFTH EDITION which defines Blood Pressure as:

The pressure exerted by the blood against the walls of the blood vessels, especially the arteries. It varies with the strength of the heartbeat, the elasticity of the arterial walls, the volume and viscosity of the blood, and a person’s health, age, and physical condition.

This is all done to measure the health of the heart and arteries to move the blood and viscosity is a description of how thick your blood is and how easily (or not) it moves.

BP readings are defined as “the actual measurement of a person’s blood pressure expressed as systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure readings”. Systolic pressure is measured after the heart contracts and is the higher number. Diastolic pressure is measured before the heart contracts and is the lower number.

This next info gives a bit more detail and may be something you already knew but I didn’t so I decided to include it – Blood pressure that is too low is called hypotension, and BP that is too high is called hypertension.

Long-term hypertension (high BP) is a risk factor for many diseases, some of which include heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. Hypertension is more common than long-term hypotension, which is usually only diagnosed when it causes symptoms.

That finishes up the definitions and the ground setting for the rest of this discussion. So, things should get more interesting and more important for us all to know.

New BP Categories

The new categories — the new guidelines the AHA and ACC published in Nov 2017 lowered the numbers in each category and totally eliminated the old category called Prehypertension. Overall what this did was to put more people in the Stage 1 and Stage 2 categories. Here are the new categories:

Normal                                 less than 120 / 80

Elevated                                 120 – 129 / less than 80 (a new category & Previously Pre-hypertension)

Stage 1 Hypertension       130 – 139 / 80 – 89 (Previously Pre-hypertension)

Stage 2 Hypertension       140 and above /  90 and above (Previously Stage 1)

Hypertensive Crisis           180 and above /  120 and above  (a new category & highest)

These new categories are trying to call attention to any Blood Pressure reading over normal because that is when the damage to your blood vessels can start and without proper attention can progress to your heart, and possibly to your other organs. I think that we can all agree that early identification and treatment is a good thing.

And if you haven’t listened to my podcast on Blood Pressure mistakes be sure to do it now!


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