Ok, let’s talk about these new high blood pressure guidelines because it’s literally giving me high blood pressure just thinking about it. Back in November, the American Heart Association released a new standard for what constitutes “high blood pressure” a.k.a. hypertension. A little preface here, normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg. Prior to the recent change, 130/85 mmHg was considered “pre-hypertensive” meaning you don’t have high blood pressure yet but you are on your way so make some changes. Once 140/90 mmHg was reached, you were officially diagnosed with hypertension and likely put on medication to control it. Well these standards have now been re-figured so that 130/80 mmHg is no longer pre-hypertension but officially hypertension. Following me here? Kind of like an 8 is the new 4 in pant sizes for women or orange is the new pink (if you get that reference we can totally be friends). Let’s look at the complete new scale to make this clear:
120-129 mmHg ELEVATED
130-139 mmHg HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (stage 1)
80-89 mmHg (Medication prescribed)
>140 mmHg HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (stage 2)
>90 mmHg (Medication prescribed)
Now to be fair to all parties, I want to clarify that when you are diagnosed with stage 1 high blood pressure, your overall risk of cardiovascular disease is calculated and will contribute to the decision of whether or not you need medication. Meaning, things like your cholesterol levels, smoking history, and diabetes status also play a role in the medication push rather than just a simple reading of a blood pressure cuff making the decision. So what does this change mean in the grand scheme of things? Well a few things:
✓ We are catching high blood pressure earlier and requiring stricter guidelines to be considered healthy. If you aren’t given a specific diagnosis when you go in for your yearly check up then you’re obviously healthy, right? So many times, we are not even aware that we are on a path to acquiring a disease until it is too late. “Well last time you were in your blood pressure was 139/89 mmHg which wasn’t hypertensive yet so you were not told anything. But now it is 143/90 which is very dangerous for your heart and body so we need to put you on blood pressure medication.” Would have been nice to know Doc! So these lower standards may help in stopping the elevation in blood pressure before it becomes too serious of a problem for your body.
✓ MAYBE we will see less heart attacks and strokes. It is believed that high blood pressure for an extended period of time leads to heart attacks and strokes. So this is really the main reason the American Heart Association has altered its original statistics. By having people on medication to reduce elevated blood pressure sooner, it is their hope it will in turn prevent the disasters in the long run. We won't know if they achieve this goal for a few years in that case, but if there are other lifestyle factors (which likely there are) that are causing these cardiovascular events and strokes, this will all have been for nothing.
✗ More medication will be handed out. Before, with a blood pressure of 128/80, you would be warned that you are on your way to official hypertension which will warrant medication to manage, so we need to make some lifestyle changes right now to prevent this. With the new standards, this blood pressure level is likely to send you straight to the pharmacy. Big shocker, right?!? But remember though, I mentioned earlier that when you are diagnosed with stage 1 high blood pressure, your overall risk of cardiovascular disease is assessed and is one of a few factors that will contribute to the decision of whether you need medication. Things like your cholesterol levels, smoking history, and diabetes status will also be considered, rather than just a simple reading of a blood pressure cuff leading to the decision.
✗ More diagnoses to add to the list. How often do we, as chiropractors, see a past medical history form with nothing checked on it other than a stiff neck or low back pain? Well I had a 12 year old in here the other day with one but that’s about it. Today’s medical system is so quick to slap a diagnosis on someone along with a prescription to fix it rather than just stating what it is: you are too stressed emotionally and those extra 35lbs you’re carrying is adding too much stress on your heart, so let us help you fix that. It is proven that when someone is told they have an official diagnosis they feel like they now have an answer to the way they have been feeling and it becomes an excuse they sit on. “Well I have high blood pressure so I need to take medication” rather than “I have high blood pressure, so can you hold the salt on that broccoli”. We need to attack our health with a proactive approach rather than a reactive one.
I want to take a minute to educate you on why high blood pressure is such a big deal in the first place. Hypertension occurs when the force of blood pushing against vessel walls is too high. This added pressure causes the heart to work too hard and blood vessels to function less effectively. Over time, the stress damages the tissues within arteries, which can further damage the heart and circulatory system.
Often called the “silent killer” because there are usually no obvious symptoms, hypertension accounts for more heart disease and stroke deaths than almost all other preventable causes. It’s second only to smoking (American Heart Association). Hopefully that gives you a better understanding of why hypertension is a hot topic and why our team here at Back to Health of Anthem has truly made it our mission to make society healthier overall, not just help with your low back pain.
If you are interested in calculating your cardiovascular risk currently, for an inside look at what your doctor is using to evaluate your blood pressure status, check out this link!
The biggest mistake you can make is putting your health in someone else’s hands, even a doctor’s. The first step in making a lifestyle change is recognizing the problem yourself and committing to making a change. Come in to see us at Back to Health of Anthem for direction and support on the journey to a healthier, happier you. Give us a call at 623-551-6677 and set up a consult today!
*AZ Chiropractic License Pending*
Dr. Brian Hester, originally from Alabama, graduated from Life University in 1999 with his Doctorate of Chiropractic. He moved to Anthem, Arizona in 2003 and opened his wellness center. Dr. Hester's mission is to provide people in the North Phoenix area, with the tools they need to identify stressors in their life and the underlying causes of their health challenges. With Dr. Hester as a health partner, patients can make positive lifestyle changes and take control of their lives...... see more
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41930 N Venture Dr #110
Anthem, AZ 85086