High blood pressure and hypertension are lifestyle diseases that affect a large section of the population. The term blood pressure can itself shoot up the pressure for a number of people. However, it is important to understand what blood pressure is and how to decipher its readings, especially since the base guidelines changed in 2003.


What Is Blood Pressure (BP)?

Blood pressure refers to the force that helps drive and circulate the blood through the body. This circulation is vital as it helps provide oxygen and nutrients throughout the body to the tissues and the organs. At the same time, toxic wastes as well as carbon dioxide are picked up from the kidneys and the liver to be exhaled. The blood that is circulated around the body originates from the heart, where the pressure is the strongest. Thus the pressure or force that the heart makes use of to circulate blood is termed blood pressure. This blood pressure is measured in terms of systolic pressure and diastolic pressure, where systolic refers to when the blood is pushed out of the heart for circulation and diastolic refers to the pressure when the heart is resting between the beats.


Blood pressure depends on the condition of the heart as well as the arteries that transport the blood. If the walls of the arteries are weak or they are clogged or constricted, greater force is required to pump the blood, thus increasing the blood pressure.


Blood pressure readings: What is normal and what is not

As mentioned, the blood pressure readings are measured as systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Before 2003, the normal blood pressure readings were considered to be 120/80, where the systolic pressure of 120 and diastolic pressure of 80 were considered normal. Readings that indicated a high BP were 140/90. However, the new guidelines set by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology has lowered the limits of when the blood pressure can be defined as “high.” As per the latest guidelines, the new readings of 130/80 would be considered as high blood pressure stage 1, and stage 2 high BP would be when the readings are 140/90 and above.


This new guideline will thus include a lot more individuals in the bracket of those suffering from high BP. But this does not entirely spell bad news for them as it will help detect cases of high BP early and provide timely treatment.


The 2017 guidelines

Apart from “lowering” the reading for high BP, the new guidelines also specify in detail how blood pressure must be monitored, to get a “correct” reading. Plus, it also elaborates on techniques and exact steps on how to monitor BP at home with the help of a device. Additionally, even if more people are now within the high BP bracket, the first line of treatment is one that focuses on lifestyle and diet changes instead of medications.

Thus, the new guidelines regarding blood pressure are insightful and helpful and should be welcomed by patients and doctors alike and put into practice.