A New Normal: Revised Blood Pressure Guidelines Set Stricter Limits

MayoClinic.com Helps You Determine Where You Stand

May 14, 2003, 01:00 ET from Mayo Clinic

    ROCHESTER, Minn., May 14 /PRNewswire/ -- When was the last time you had
 your blood pressure checked?  What may have been considered a normal reading
 before may now signal the start of high blood pressure (hypertension).
     A newly revised national classification system toughens up blood pressure
 guidelines.  The familiar standard of 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) is
 no longer considered good enough to prevent serious or deadly health
 consequences.  In fact, that old standard is now classified as
 prehypertension, likely to cause a heart attack or stroke if left untreated.
 MayoClinic.com can help you make sense of the new guidelines.
     Click on MayoClinic.com and select the "High Blood Pressure" disease
 center to learn the latest information (or click here
 http://www.mayoclinic.com/invoke.cfm?id=HI00032 ).  You'll find the new
 guidelines described in an easy-to-understand format.  Because these new
 guidelines set stricter standards for what's considered normal blood pressure,
 it's in your best interest to be informed.
     "You're not home free if your blood pressure is 120/80," says Sheldon
 Sheps, M.D., medical editor of MayoClinic.com's High Blood Pressure Center and
 former chair of the Division of Hypertension in the Department of Internal
 Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.  Dr. Sheps served on the committee
 that drafted the new national guidelines and says there's a major risk of
 developing full hypertension if you don't make lifestyle changes or take steps
 to control your blood pressure.
     The new guidelines, issued by the Joint National Committee on Prevention,
 Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (JNC) will be
 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on May 21,
 2003.  The JNC last issued blood pressure guidelines in 1997.  Since then,
 compelling new evidence indicates that those classifications weren't strict
     Hypertension rates have continued to climb, along with serious health
 problems -- and medical costs -- associated with high blood pressure.  More
 than 50 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure, and most
 who have it don't control it well enough to prevent its associated health
 complications.  MayoClinic.com explains the new guidelines:
     A new normal: Under the new guidelines, your blood pressure is normal only
 if it's below 120/80 mm Hg.  In the past, normal was anything below 130/85 mm
 Hg, and optimal -- the blood pressure most healthy people should aim for --
 was a reading of 120/80 or lower.  But new evidence shows neither of those
 readings is low enough to prevent cardiovascular complications.
     A new category: The new guidelines also include a category called
 prehypertension.  Prehypertension is a systolic pressure (top number) ranging
 from 120 to 139 or a diastolic pressure (bottom number) ranging from 80 to 89.
 You can have prehypertension even if just one of the two numbers in your blood
 pressure reading is elevated.
     A new staging system: Just as before, the new guidelines classify blood
 pressure as outright hypertension beginning at 140/90 mm Hg.  But the new
 guidelines do away with the old, more complicated system of categorizing
 hypertension into three risk groups.  Now, hypertension simply falls into two
 categories based upon systolic and diastolic pressure ranges.
     As with the previous guidelines, the adoption of a healthy lifestyle is
 recommended no matter what your blood pressure.  Healthy habits, such as
 reducing dietary sodium consumption and maintaining a healthy weight, will
 help you avoid developing hypertension.
     If it's been more than two years since your last blood pressure check,
 it's time to pay a visit to your doctor.  The bottom line is there's no room
 for complacency anymore.  Taking steps to reduce blood pressure may save your
 life or allow you to live longer, with better quality years.
     MayoClinic.com is a source of reliable health information on topics from
 cancer to quitting smoking, healthy traveling and first aid.  This site is
 produced as part of Mayo Clinic's commitment to serve as a dependable source
 of health information for the public.

SOURCE Mayo Clinic