New guidelines mean you might have high blood pressure

New guidelines mean mean you might have high blood pressure

For the first time in 14 years, new guidelines change what's considered to be high blood pressure. That means a lot more people will be impacted by the 'silent killer.'

Gail Mates said after her parents died she fell into depression.

"I actually became quite scared because everyone in my family has died of heart disease and I'm next in line," Gail said.

She turned to food for comfort, which led to major health issues, including high blood pressure. Hers was 150 over 110 - normal blood pressure is 120 over 80.

"My daughter would come into my room and I'd wake up and see her, she'd be hovering over me to see if I was breathing. She said I wasn't going to be around for her children and she was right," Gail said.

New guidelines released by the American Heart Association define high blood pressure as a reading higher than 130 over 80. It used to be 140 over 90.

So now, instead of one in three adult Americans are being impacted, now nearly half of all adults have high blood pressure.

"The goal is not to get more people on medication, but to get more people to modify their behavior," said Dr. Richard Benson.

Dr. Benson with MedStar Washington Hospital Center hopes the stricter definition will be a wake-up call for patients to take high blood pressure more seriously. It's a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, but improvements in diet and exercise can be quite effective at lowering your blood pressure.

"People that exercise for 20 to 30 minutes a day at least three times a week had a lower rate of cardiovascular disease. People can exercise, start instituting a diet more similar to the Mediterranean diet," Dr. Benson said.

Gail did both, starting with just five minutes of exercise a week and building up. She's also very careful about her diet - selecting fresh, not processed, foods.

She's lost 65 pounds and no longer has high blood pressure or diabetes.

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