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When to Worry About Your Blood Pressure

130/80 is the new high blood pressure threshold. What should your personal blood pressure goal be and when should you worry?

By
Sanaz Majd, MD
4-minute read
Episode #252

How do elevated blood pressures actually cause damage? Well, if the pressure is high enough in the lumen of the hose, it can eventually cause wear and tear on the wall lining. We have an immune system which is trained to “patch things up.” As a result, platelets, plaques, and cholesterol deposits attack these worn out areas in an attempt to repair and if the lining is thickened enough it can prevent the blood to flow. And we need blood to carry oxygen to our heart, brain, and organs. So if it doesn’t, then those organs are in trouble.

This is why heart disease is referred to as the “silent killer”—because you may feel fine, until one day a heart attack or stroke occurs.

The earlier and more diligently the blood pressure is managed, the less damage we cause to our arteries through time.

Now back to the new study guidelines released. The earlier and more diligently the blood pressure is managed, the less damage we cause to our arteries through time. And according to the new guidelines, those with a higher risk of heart disease need to set a lower blood pressure threshold and consider medications to treat it earlier.

What does “higher risk” mean—how much risk are we referring to? Well, the expert committee answered this question, too. Those with a 10% or greater risk of developing heart disease in the next 10 years should have a 130/80 threshold to consider treatment. Here’s a blood pressure calculator developed by the American Heart Association to individualize this to each person. The more risk factors you have (for instance, the older your age, or the higher your cholesterol), the higher your 10-year risk is. Those that have a 10-year risk of less than 10% may not need medication to treat early on, but should at minimum implement lifestyle changes.

How to Reduce High Blood Pressure

Studies have shown the following:

  • Aerobic exercise reduces systolic blood pressure by 4-9 mm Hg and diastolic by 2-3 mm Hg
  • Weight loss reduces BP by 5-20mmHg
  • Limiting sodium intake reduces BP by 2-8 mmHg. A daily salt intake of less than 2400 mg/day is recommended.
  • For those over age 60: weight loss and reduced salt intake are particularly beneficial
In short, keep your weight under control, and if your blood pressure is even borderline, cut back on sodium and get enough potassium.

You can’t do much about bad genes besides griping, but you can do a whole lot to control environment, including the following:

Limit sodium: Eating lots of sodium can put a lot of stress on the kidneys and mess up with the epithelium. Click here for a Nutrition Diva episode that can help you there.

Lose weight: Obesity can change the hormones in the body.

Quit smoking: Smoking messes with the nerves that control the blood pressure.

Limit stress: Stress can mess with hormones and nerves.

Check out my prior article on how to treat your blood pressure without medication. For some, especially if you have borderline or mildly elevated numbers, making some lifestyle changes alone, such as losing at least 10% of your body weight, may be just sufficient to reach your blood pressure goal. Hence, you may be able to avoid having to take a pill every day.

Share your ideas and learn more quick and dirty tips with us on the House Call Doctor’s FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest pages! If you learned anything here today, or simply enjoy all-things-medical, you can also listen and subscribe to the House Call Doctor podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher.

Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only.  This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider.  Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

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Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Her special interests are women's health and patient education.