Hypertension, or high blood pressure level, is a common risk factor for stroke, cardiovascular diseases, kidney failure, and in extreme cases even death if not detected or treated in time. Blood pressure is among the first tests administered to an individual as part of a health check, during routine medical examinations, and in case of emergencies. Traditionally 120/80 is considered the ideal reading to register, particularly for those under treatment for hypertension. However, a new set of guidelines for hypertension prevention and management has been issued by global experts recently.
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure (BP) measures the force of blood on the walls of the blood vessels. As a person ages, there is plaque build up in these vessels and the walls lose some of their flexibility. As a result, when the heart squeezes and pushes out blood, the blood vessels can no longer expand like they used to, and neither can they sustain higher pressure. BP measurements/readings indicate the physical well-being of the person ahead of other tests. It is recorded as two numbers: the top number, aka the systolic pressure, indicates pressure as the heart beats; the lower number, aka the diastolic pressure, serves as the measurement when the heart relaxes between beats. According to globally-accepted guidelines of the American Heart Association (AHA), BP measurements fall under these categories:
- Normal range: 120/80 mmHg (Read: less than 120 mmHg for systolic and 80 mmHg for diastolic)
- Elevated range: 130/80 - 139/89 mmHg (new guideline)
- Stage 1 Hypertension: 140/90 - 159/99 mmHg
- Stage 2 Hypertension: 160/100 - 180/110 mmHg
Did you know there were new guidelines for blood pressure management?
The eighth joint national committee of experts listed with JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) listed new guidelines for medical professionals, which contain 9 recommendations and a treatment process for hypertension.These guidelines are also endorsed by the Indian Society for Hypertension and are deemed effective for doctors in India as well. The recommendations listed within the guidelines say:
- 130/80 is considered the new elevated range as opposed to the earlier reading of of 140/90.
- An individual with hypertension between 30-59 years of age need not comply with the ideal reading of 120/80, provided they are on blood pressure medication, and are managing within the range of 140/90 with a primary or secondary line of treatment.
- For those above 60 years of age, the benchmark is set at 150/90.
While the benchmark set for elevated BP has been brought down, the benchmark set for hypertension has been liberalized. The recommendations for hypertension come at the wake of research findings for the new guidelines: "In the course of research for the new guidelines, the expert panel examined a whole lot of data related to blood pressure management and treatment. This included efficacy and outcome of drugs and interventions in different categories. In the end, they found that the list of 'ill' due to additional medication was longer than the number of benefits achieved. Therefore, it was thought that liberalising the bench mark was a better option. Thus, the recommendation came in," says Dr Rishi Sethi, Associate Professor, Department of Cardiology, King George's Medical University.
What can you do to manage BP levels?
Here’s a quick run down of lifestyle checks that can help keep blood pressure levels within an ideal range:
- Increase physical activity
- Reduce stress
- Quit smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Lower salt intake to less than 2g per day
- Lower caffeine intake
- Limit alcohol intake (1 serving a day for women, 2 servings a day for men)
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