From A&D Medical - The New Numbers: How to Talk Heart Health Under the New Guidelines

Posted on in Vendor Spotlight, Product and Service Solutions

In November of last year, the American Heart Association (AHA), the American College of Cardiology, and nine other groups redefined high blood pressure. The new parameters now reflect hypertension to be a reading of 130 over 80, down from 140 over 90. The change means that 46 percent of U.S. adults are now considered hypertensive – and the term “pre-hypertensive” is now a thing of the past.

Or, as a patient may say, “I went to bed one night and was fine, and the next day I woke up and had high blood pressure!”

Deeper Understanding of Lifestyle Impact on BP

While we can all justifiably relate to such a statement, the fact of the matter is there are very real (as in cost-saving) reasons to not only understand but pay more attention to those two little numbers and what they mean in our lives. According to the AHA, “By lowering the definition of high blood pressure, the guidelines recommend earlier intervention to prevent further increases in blood pressure and the complications of hypertension.”

And, that’s really what these new guidelines reflect: the deeper understanding around how lifestyle impacts those two numbers and then the extrapolation of what changes we want to make in the long term to impact them.

So, what should patients know who “woke up with high blood pressure?” That perhaps it’s time to begin watching their blood pressure on a daily basis – and tracking what they see in their lives accordingly. Blood pressure abnormally high one morning? Well, if there was Chinese food on the menu from the night before, that might explain why. That results in patients trying something new with the Chinese food next time, like walking after dinner and drinking more water.

AHA Guidelines for BP Measurement

In addition to watching how lifestyle impacts blood pressure, many patients don’t know how to properly measure blood pressure on a daily basis. For help, direct them to the AHA website, which recommends the following tips to ensure accurate blood pressure readings at home:

  1. Do not smoke, exercise, or consume anything for at least 30 minutes beforehand.
  2. Sit quietly while taking your blood pressure – and for 5-10 minutes beforehand.
  3. While taking your reading, keep your legs uncrossed, your feet flat on the floor, and your back straight.
  4. Rest your arm on a table so that the cuff is at heart level.
  5. To ensure consistency, measure two times a day - in the morning and in the evening is best - and at the same time each day (consider setting an alarm or using an app to remind you to take your readings).
  6. Keep track of your daily readings to look for patterns over time (if possible, look for a blood pressure monitor that automatically sends data to a corresponding app on a smartphone, which makes it easy and convenient to share information with family members and health care providers).

Using blood pressure monitors at home is an easy way to not only understand more about what those two little numbers mean to our health, they can also unlock the ability to plan changes for that will give us better control over our heart health in the long term.