Prehypertension is a new term that alerts people to the risk of
developing chronic high blood pressure if they don’t take timely steps
to improve their lifestyle habits, according to the National Heart,
Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Someone who ends up with full-blown
high blood pressure may in time develop heart disease, stroke, kidney
disease, blindness, or dementia, and may have to stay on prescription
drugs for life.
The numbers to remember are 120 over 80—the blood pressure reading that
until recently was considered to fall in a healthy range. That reading
now should be seen as a yellow light, the NHLBI says. According to
guidelines recently issued by the federal government, those numbers
signal the low end, or the beginning, of prehypertension.
Blood pressure should be measured every year or two, and more often if
you have abnormal readings, because you can feel perfectly relaxed and
healthy yet still have an elevated level.
A reading of 120 over 80 is where prehypertension begins, and 140 over
90 is where hypertension begins for most healthy adults. When the top
(systolic) number is between 120 and 139, and/or the bottom (diastolic)
number is between 80 and 89, your reading is in the prehypertension
range. For people older than age 50, the systolic reading is more
When your systolic pressure is 120 or higher, you should focus on
lifestyle choices to try to improve your blood pressure. Starting at a
reading of 140, you also need to talk to your health care provider about
using blood pressure medication.
Don't wait until you develop high blood pressure to do something about
it. Small lifestyle changes can help delay progression to high blood
pressure and the need for medications. Start with exercise. Regular,
vigorous walking has been shown to help lower blood pressure. Exercise
will help keep your weight under control, too. Losing as few as 10
pounds can have a significant effect on blood pressure levels. Eat
plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy
products. Limit the amount of salt and sodium in your diet. Avoid
alcohol, and if you smoke, quit. Learn relaxation techniques to help you
better handle stress.
For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.