The New Blood Pressure Numbers: Keep Yours Under Control

If your blood pressure numbers are on the rise, it’s important to know that your risk for high blood pressure (hypertension) increases with age. (For men, it’s around age 45; for women, it’s around age 65+.) Maybe there’s been some family, financial, or work stress. If you use tobacco in any form (smoking or smokeless), quit now. Maybe you’ve been grabbing fast food on the run, or not getting enough exercise or sleep. You may even have a family history of high blood pressure. (If you’re African-American, it’s more common.) Stress and unwise lifestyle choices add up – and may lead to a heart attack or stroke.

The American Heart Association has important new blood pressure numbers in 2018* as a guideline for better health:

Normal Blood Pressure =                  119/79 mm Hg, or lower

Elevated (prehypertension) =          120-129/79 mm Hg

Hypertension (Stage 1) =                 130-139/80-89 mm Hg

Hypertension (Stage 2) =                 140/90 mm Hg or higher

*Systolic/Diastolic = top number/bottom number.

You can’t feel or see high blood pressure. (It’s often called the “silent killer.”) That’s why it’s crucial that you talk to your doctor, and have your numbers checked. Your doctor will have recommendations, given your individual needs and family history. While having high blood pressure can mean taking medication to lower it, you may not have to do so if better lifestyle choices can keep those numbers in line. Discuss healthy behavioral changes that you can make through diet and exercise, as a first step.

Commit to controlling your blood pressure now versus later. Cope with stress better: Breathe deeply, relax more, and slow down. Enjoy time with family and friends. Eat healthy, lean proteins; veggies; low-fat or skim dairy (or vitamin-fortified soy); and whole grains. Read food labels to cut back on caffeine, cholesterol, fat, and sodium. Exercise to maintain a healthy weight (150 minutes per week; try for 30 minutes most days — start with walking!). Limit alcohol (one drink per day for most women; two per day, for most men under age 65). Don’t smoke or use tobacco in any form. (If you do, quit!)

High blood pressure is your wake-up call to getting healthier.

By Lisa Miceli Feliciano

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