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Last month, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association announced new guidelines for blood pressure that lower what a healthy blood pressure looks like.
According to Dr. Christopher Malozzi, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and a cardiologist with USA Physicians Group, the new standard lowers optimal blood pressure numbers from 140/90 to 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg). This means that more patients, who were previously not under surveillance from their physicians for high blood pressure, will now be more closely monitored.
Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood the heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in the arteries. The more blood a heart pumps and the narrower the arteries, the higher blood pressure can become. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can exist in patients for years without any noticeable symptoms. Even without symptoms, damage to blood vessels and the heart continues and can be detected.
Lowering the target blood pressure guidelines will impact patient treatment. Many hypertension patients who were previously at goal blood pressure may need to have their medications increased -- and in some cases medications added -- to bring them to the new target range. For those patients with borderline symptoms of hypertension, a medication regimen could be recommended.
“As physicians, our ultimate goal is to prevent diseases," Dr. Malozzi said. "We will have to urge medication compliance with our patients so that their blood pressures remain controlled as much as possible in an attempt to avoid serious health issues.”
Beyond medication, patients looking to lower their blood pressure should also consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products in conjunction with a reduction in dietary sodium intake. This dietary regimen is otherwise known as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to treat Systolic Hypertension) diet.
Hypertension also can be controlled by participating in physical activity three to four days a week and moderating alcohol consumption. In many cases, hypertension can be managed with these lifestyle changes.
The USA Heart Center serves a population of patients who are at risk of or suffering from the long-term complications of hypertension such as heart attack, congestive heart failure, stroke, kidney disease and death.
“We have an obligation to our patients to provide the most cost-effective, quality-driven, patient-centered and evidence-based medical care," Dr. Malozzi said. "The new guidelines give us updated and comprehensive recommendations on how to best fulfill that obligation.”
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