As LIFELINES went to press, U.S. health officials announced a major extension of those considered at risk of stroke, heart failure or kidney disease due to high blood pressure. As additional information becomes available, the LHSFNA Health Promotion Division will post it on its website: www.lhsfna.org/html/health_promotion.html.
Currently, doctors recommend – dietary changes, exercise and, in some cases, medication – for people with blood pressure readings higher than 140 over 90. About 50 million Americans, roughly one in four adults, fall into this category.
Recent studies, however, show that levels highter than 115 over 75 indicate an increased risk of death from heart disease and stroke. In particular, for people between 40 and 70 years old, each 20-point increase in the top number or 10-point increase in the bottom doubles the risk of heart disease.
Thus, health officials announced the creation of a new category — the “prehypertensive” group. These are people with top levels between 120 and 139 and bottom levels between 80 and 89.
People in the prehypertensive category are urged to lower their weight, exercise more, reduce intake of sodium, cut alcohol consumption and modify their diet to include more fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy foods and whole grains and less saturated fat. This diet has been shown to reduce blood pressure within two to four weeks.