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Understanding the new blood pressure guidelines

If you didn’t have high blood pressure before, you might now considering the numbers that define it have changed.

High blood pressure (hypertension) rarely has noticeable symptoms, but if left untreated it increases your risk of heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, stroke or dementia. This is because this higher pressure puts extra strain on your heart and blood vessels.

Essential reading: Top smart blood pressure monitors

Blood pressure standards are not updated at regular intervals. But last year, for the first time in 14 years, the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and nine other health organizations changed the numbers. This was done to help people address high blood pressure issues much earlier.

To this end the term “pre-hypertension” is gone and the threshold for the diagnosis of hypertension has been lowered from 140/90 to 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). The other change is that the new guidelines don’t offer different recommendations for people younger or older than age 65. This means that around three quarters of men aged over 55 are now considered to have high blood-pressure.

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We have written many times about the importance of home blood pressure monitoring. The new guidelines agree with us and specifically encourage people to use home blood pressure monitors in order to take their readings on a regular basis.

One in three adults is affected by high blood pressure, but as many as a third of these can be unaware of a problem. The only way of knowing there is a problem is to regularly have your blood pressure checked. This is particularly important as you get older, as the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle can build up and your blood pressure can increase.

There are many easy to use digital devices on the market. The American and British Hypertension Societies recommend using an upper-arm monitor as these are more accurate than wrist monitors.

Essential reading: Compare smart blood pressure monitors with our interactive tool

Smart blood pressure monitors offer the convenience of recording all the readings and keeping a historical account in a handy app, so that you can easily see any trends or patterns, which can help you to make lifestyle changes more quickly. What’s more, you can share your results with a doctor at the touch of a button, providing you with a more comprehensive view of your health.

These new guidelines were enacted, in part, to increase hypertension awareness. While self-checking is not a substitute for seeing a doctor, being able to regularly measure and most importantly track blood pressure over time is a proven to help you manage heart health.

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