Health Watch -- New Blood Pressure Guidelines

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

If you thought your blood pressure was in the normal range, you need to check again.

New guidelines for blood pressure mean a lot of people may need to take a second look. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recently issued these guidelines, which state that people whose blood pressure was thought to be in the normal range may actually be in a state of pre-hypertension. These people may need to make changes in their lifestyles to keep from developing high blood pressure.

The guidelines suggest that people whose blood pressure is higher than 120 over 80 should lose weight if they're overweight, exercise more, reduce the amount of salt in their diets and minimize the amount of alcohol they drink. By making these changes, people may be able to avoid developing dangerously high blood pressure and all of the health problems associated with it, such as heart attacks, stroke and kidney failure.

The report also suggests new ways of treating high blood pressure, such as using combinations of medications including diuretics.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say these guidelines are important because so many of the people who have high blood pressure don't have it under control. Many don't even know they have the problem until they develop other complications.