New guidelines for high blood pressure

A woman has her blood pressure taken, (SBGTV)

For the first time in 14 years there are new guidelines for what is considered to be high blood pressure. That means a lot more people are going to be impacted by this "silent killer."

Gail Mates says after her parents died, she fell into depression...

"I actually became quite scared," Mates said, "because everyone in my family has died of heart disease and I'm next in line"

She turned to food for comfort, which led to major health issues, including high blood pressure. Hers was 150 over 110 - normal blood pressure is 120 over 80.

"My daughter would come into my room and I'd wake up and see her- she'd be hovering over me to see if I was breathing. She said I wasn't going to be around for her children and she was right." Mates said.

New guidelines released by the American Heart Association define high blood pressure as a reading higher than 130 over 80. It used to be 140 over 90.

So now instead of one in three adult Americans being impacted, nearly half of all adults have high blood pressure.

"The goal is not to get more people on medication, but to get more people to modify their behavior" said Dr. Richard Benson with Medstar Washington Hospital Center. Benson hopes the stricter definition will be a wake-up call for patients to take high blood pressure more seriously. It's a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Improvements in diet and exercise can be quite effective at lowering your blood pressure.

"People that exercise for 20-30 min a day at least 3 times a week had a lower rate of cardiovascular disease." Benson says, "People can exercise, start instituting a diet more similar to the Mediterranean diet"

Gail Mates did both starting with just five minutes of exercise a week and building up. She's also very careful about her diet- selecting fresh, not processed, foods.

She's lost 65 pounds and no longer has high blood pressure or diabetes.

"It's all about small simple changes add up to big results." Bates says "My cardiologist said because of this, and exercise I'm doing, I'm saving my life every day"

If you're diagnosed with high blood pressure, Dr. Benson also recommends you get a machine to check your blood pressure regularly at home.

He says that will help you stay on track and see that your diet and exercise changes are making a difference.

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