New High Blood Pressure Guidelines
In May of 2003, The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) released new clinical practice guidelines for the prevention, detection, and treatment of high blood pressure. The guidelines, which were approved by the Coordinating Committee of the NHLBI's National High Blood Pressure Education Program (NHBPEP), feature altered blood pressure categories, including a new “prehypertension” level-which covers about 22 percent of American adults or about 45 million persons.
The new report changes the former blood pressure definitions to:
Normal: less than 120/less than 80 mm Hg
Prehypertension: 120-139/80-89 mm Hg
Stage 1 hypertension: 140-159/90-99 mm Hg
Stage 2 hypertension: at or greater than 160/at or greater than 100 mm Hg.
The new 2003 guidelines do not recommend drug therapy for those with prehypertension unless it is required by another condition, such as diabetes or chronic kidney disease. But the report advises them — and encourages those with normal blood pressures — to make any needed lifestyle changes. These include losing excess weight, becoming physically active, limiting alcoholic beverages, and following a heart-healthy eating plan, including cutting back on salt and other forms of sodium. The report also recommends that, for overall cardiovascular health, persons quit smoking.
As in the 1997 guidelines, the new 2003 report recommends Americans follow the DASH — Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension — eating plan, which is rich in vegetables, fruit, and nonfat dairy products. Clinical studies have shown that DASH significantly lowers blood pressure. The decreases are often comparable to those achieved with blood pressure-lowering medication.