What do the new high blood pressure guidelines mean for me?

The goal of the newly announced changes to the blood pressure guideline for Americans is to help people get earlier detection and treatment.

This week the American Heart Association announced new blood pressure guidelines for Americans. When guidelines are revised it is perfect time to be sure you know and understand how the guidelines pertain to your own health. It is also an opportune time to prepare a list of questions for your next health care visit so you can stay feel well informed and involved in your health plan.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a serious health condition and should not be ignored. Monitoring your blood pressure at home is typically not a routine practice for most Americans unless you already have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Because of this, an annual visit to your health care provider is essential to track your blood pressure. A blood pressure reading is a simple procedure that only takes a couple minutes but provides critical health data.

Each blood pressure reading provides information to your doctor about the actual pressure within your blood vessel walls. When a reading is above the normal range, whether slightly elevated or consistently elevated, important conversations about healthier lifestyle changes will begin. These may include weight loss, increase physical activity, stop smoking, and cut back on alcohol. Improving your dietary patterns can have positive effects on blood pressure. Treatment for reducing high blood pressure may also include medication.

As medical guidelines are revised and changed be sure you understand as much as you can about the new guidelines and think through possible questions pertaining to your own blood pressure status. To assist with this task the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association have created a Blood Pressure Questions to Ask Your Doctor printable handout. Michigan State University Extension encourages you to review these full set of blood pressure questions and print the handout to take with you at your next doctor’s visit:

  1. What do my blood pressure numbers mean?
  2. What should my blood pressure numbers be?
  3. How can high blood pressure affect my health?
  4. Are there any lifestyle changes that will help me control my blood pressure?
  5. How often should my blood pressure be checked?
  6. Should I use a home blood pressure monitor?
  7. What type of home monitor should I purchase?
  8. Will I need to take blood pressure medication?
  9. What kind of medication is best for me?
  10. What are the side effects?
  11. What if I forget to take my medication?
  12. Should I avoid any foods or other medications?
  13. Can I drink alcohol?
  14. How long will I need to take my medication?

The announcement of the new guidelines includes important information for everyone including younger people and older adults. Knowing your blood pressure numbers, and understanding how to prevent, reduce and treat elevated numbers is critical. Serious health risks, include heart disease and stroke, are associated with uncontrolled high blood pressure. Keep a watchful eye on your blood pressure!

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