The revised classification of blood pressure published by the American Heart Association and The American College of Cardiology in 2017.

The revised classification of blood pressure published by the American Heart Association and The American College of Cardiology in 2017.

What you don’t know about high blood pressure can kill you

Under revised medical guidelines, 120/80 is no longer considered normal.

Do you know your blood pressure? Are you one of the almost half of Americans that now have high blood pressure? Don’t know?

You’ll want to read on to see where you fit in the revised classification of blood pressure published by the American Heart Association and The American College of Cardiology in 2017. Most of us think if our blood pressure is 120/80 we have normal blood pressure. Not so anymore.

This is the first column in a series talking about high blood pressure and what you can do to prevent and control it in your life.

According to the revised guidelines, a healthy blood pressure is under 120/80. If your blood pressure is at 120/80 you have what we now identify as elevated blood pressure. Our blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to all the cells in our body, so keeping it healthy is an integral part of being healthy. When blood pressure is elevated it can thicken and narrow blood flow and damage the inner walls of your heart and arteries — increasing your risk for heart disease. Over time, permanent damage can be caused to the heart, kidneys, eyes and brain. It can even cause a stroke, or heart and kidney failure.

High blood pressure or hypertension is a disease and a risk factor associated with heart disease. When you have high blood pressure it means that your blood is pumping harder on your artery walls than it should be. High blood pressure can be dangerous because it puts a strain on your heart by making it work harder. Even more dangerous is the fact that it oftentimes has no symptoms and you may not know you have it for many years. That’s why it’s important to get it checked and know your numbers. The top number is your systolic number, measuring the heart beats. The bottom is the diastolic number, measuring the heart at rest between beats. If you don’t know your number, go to the nearest drugstore and use the blood pressure cuff available to take your blood pressure.

There are many factors that influence whether you will develop high blood pressure. Some of these risk factors you can control, and others you cannot control.

The uncontrollable ones:

■ Your family history can increase your chances of developing high blood pressure. So if your parents have it, your risk is higher of developing it.

■ Ethnicity, because African-Americans and Hispanics have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.

■ Advancing age may contribute. More than 65% of those age 60 or above have some form of high blood pressure.

■ Gender, because men usually experience high blood pressure earlier in their lives while women are generally protected through menopause.

The controllable ones:

■ Not smoking.

■ Maintaining a reasonable weight.

■ Being physically active regularly.

■ Controlling stress.

■ Preventing sleep apnea.

■ Keeping alcohol consumption under control.

■ Keeping dietary salt under 2,400 milligrams (about one teaspoon) per day.

I’ll write more about these next month, so remember to look for Part 2 of this series on preventing and managing high blood pressure in this monthly section of The Daily Herald.

Kim Larson is a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified health and wellness coach and founder of Total Health. Visit or for more. Follow her on Twitter @healthrd. Disclaimer: This is for information only and not intended as personal medical advice.

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