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 enough. 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