Ask Avera: What are the new blood pressure guidelines?

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(KSFY) - New blood pressure guidelines were recently published by the American Heart Association. They lower the threshold for high blood pressure.

“In the past, we've always said you had high blood pressure if your blood pressure was greater than 140/90. But the new guidelines suggest that you have high blood pressure if your blood pressure is 130/80 – so a big difference,” said Dr. Jennifer McKay, internal medicine physician.

Dr. McKay says the new guidelines don’t mean too much for patients in respect to, do you need to start taking a medication sooner.

“That is not the intent of the guidelines. The intent of the guidelines really is to help patients engage much more quickly and sooner with their physicians so they can make lifestyle modifications,” said Dr. McKay.

Dr. McKay says the guidelines identify blood pressure being an issue sooner.

“We know that when you get into that 140/90 range, your risk of end organ diseases like kidney failure, stroke and cardiac disease almost double. But number two, it recognizes socioeconomic status and other groups of patients that we haven't previously recognized in the past,” said Dr. McKay.

Dr. McKay says patients should ask their doctor what they can do to prevent needing a medication in the future.

“So if you look at the new model for health care, that really focuses more on wellness rather than sickness. This really turns things on its head and asks patients and physicians to work together in a shared decision-making format to take care of themselves long-term,” said Dr. McKay.

If you have a question for one of our Ask Avera expert, e-mail tess.hedrick@ksfy.com