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New AHA Guidelines for Blood Pressure Tests

SPRINGFIELD -- For the first time in 13 years, the American Heart Association is altering its guidelines for blood pressure testing.

After reviewing some data, the AHA has re-categorized what is considered to be elevated blood pressure.

That data was based on outcomes of people with different levels of blood pressure. That top and bottom number on your test could bring on a different set of recommendations than before.  

Dr. Steve Kuehn, a Cardiologist at CoxHealth discusses how things have changed.
 
"What it used to be is that we would only treat patients with elevated blood pressure if their top number, or systolic, was greater than 140, and the bottom was over 90," Kuehn says.

If you fell in that range before, you probably didn't get any recommendations for high blood pressure treatment.

"So now they have sort of re-categorized what is considered elevated blood pressure," Dr. Kuehn says. "That's anything greater than 120 over 80. If you have elevated chances of having some sort of cardiovascular disease,  or of course if they have a known cardiovascular disease, then we treat them with both lifestyle changes and medications."

That means your blood pressure doesn't have to be nearly as high now to draw those lifestyle change suggestions.

"Between 120-130, we recommend lifestyle changes for everybody actually. That is a big change for what the previous guidelines recommended," Dr. Kuehn explains.  

Despite the changes, when getting a test done, there are some characteristics people should still follow.

"We do recommend people be relaxed, comfortable,  relatively silent, we don't tell people to be quiet while we are measuring their blood pressure. Basically have the arm rested at their side, using a blood pressure cuff ideally on the upper arm," Dr. Kuehn says.
 
It is good to monitor your blood pressure regularly, but not too often.

"I generally don't recommend patients check their blood pressure multiple times a day," says Dr. Kuehn. "This is partly because it causes anxiety over their blood pressure and we don't want that. I recommend once a day, but not to really focus one getting too many measurements unless there is a very good reason to do that."

Dr. Kuehn says these guidelines changed so much based on the data that says, going from normal blood pressure to 10 points higher doubles your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

 


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