COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - If you think your blood pressure is fine - think again.
Mary Zanders is getting hers checked inside Triangle Pharmacy in West Columbia. She already is on blood pressure medication.
"I have to check it every day. And my daughter makes sure I check it," Mary says.
And checking it like that is just what doctors and health experts are recommending especially in light of the new, updated blood pressure guidelines by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.
The recently released new recommendations state patients with blood pressure levels at 130 over 80 are now classified as having stage 1 hypertension. That means almost half of the American population has high blood pressure.
"So normal blood pressure is less than 120. Early hypertension is between 120 and 129 and that is the top number of the blood pressure, the systolic number. And hypertension stage one is 130 to 139. And stage two is above 140," says Dr. Amy Epps of Lexington Cardiology.
She says doctors will have to be more aggressive with their patients - making it a team approach.
"The patient is going to have to start taking more responsibility for checking their own blood pressure. Because the way the guidelines are outlined, normal is now 120 or less and a lot of us sat around in the 120s and felt like that was fine."
Dr. Epps says if you don't have any risk factors for cardiovascular disease, other than hypertension, then the recommendations are to monitor your blood pressure at home or a pharmacy like this one for the next three to six months and then reassess.
"But if you do have other risk factors for cardiovascular disease and have this early hypertension which is that 120 to 129, then you also need to monitor at home and then come back in a month for recheck."
Dr. Epps reminds you hypertension is a silent killer. You may not know you have it, but it can do serious damage when left untreated.
"Patients greater than 30 years old with hypertension, have increased risk of cardiovascular disease. And that includes heart attacks, stroke, peripheral arterial disease which is the disease of the circulation, aneurysms and things like that."
And kidney disease. So what should Mary and others do? Help keep your blood pressure low naturally by focusing on a low sodium diet and lots of exercise.
"With each lifestyle change, you can bring down those numbers by five points, five pressure points. And if you really adjust to a low sodium diet, you can potentially bring down your blood pressure by 10 points."
And, of course, many patients will be seeing more of their pharmacists for blood pressure lowering drugs.
Blood pressure categories in the new guideline are:
Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg;
Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80;
Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89;
Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg;
Hypertensive crisis: Systolic over 180 and/or diastolic over 120, with patients needing prompt changes in medication if there are no other indications of problems, or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage.