How low should your blood pressure be? Recently, The American College of Cardiology and the
American Heart Association released updated blood pressure guidelines. While they focus on a
personalized approach to managing blood pressure, many more Americans will now qualify as
having hypertension, or high blood pressure, due to the lowering of blood pressure goals.
Normal blood pressure used to be classified as less than 140/90 mmHg, but now, normal is
considered under 120/80. Currently, if your top number (systolic blood pressure) is between
120 and 129, it’s considered elevated. And if it’s between 130 and 139 and between 80 and 89
for the bottom number (diastolic), it’s classified as Stage 1 high blood pressure. Readings above
140/90 are now Stage 2 high blood pressure.
So how do you get this diagnosis? Two careful readings on at least two separate occasions. You
may be wondering just what is a proper reading. Good technique for measuring blood pressure
and home monitoring of blood pressure are important since a decision to treat or not to treat
comes from these readings. Errors in blood pressure readings are common.
Here’s how to get an accurate reading:
While caffeine is often blamed for increasing blood pressure, it doesn’t generally increase blood
pressure in regular caffeine users.
In a clinic setting, ensure your providers are using the above strategies for accurate
measurement before giving you a diagnosis of high blood pressure. Also, if you do have high
blood pressure, consider monitoring it several days a week at different times at home to assist
For home blood pressure monitoring, it’s important to be sure that the arm cuff of your
monitor is sized correctly for your arm. Most monitors are also available with large cuff sizes;
recommended arm measurements listed on the packaging will help you determine what size
you need. Arm monitors are most accurate. Wrist and finger monitors are not recommended
due to inaccuracy. However, wrist monitors may be a good choice in the extremely obese and
should be held at the level of the heart during the reading. For any monitor, be sure to review
and follow the manufacturer instructions to improve the accuracy of your reading.
If you do monitor at home, show your healthcare provider your readings so they can use them
in monitoring the effects of your medications and making adjustments.
Your pharmacist can also assist you in selecting an appropriate blood pressure monitor and
teaching you how to use it.
So your blood pressure is a little high, now what? Don’t assume that medications will be the
recommendation if your blood pressure is only slightly elevated. Most providers will
recommend lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise to attempt to reduce your
readings first. They will also likely assess your cardiovascular risk in deciding if you should begin
blood pressure medication. This is part of the individualized treatment for blood pressure.
Getting your blood pressure to a normal level is an excellent way to reduce your cardiovascular
risk and keep you healthy.
Talk to your pharmacist or physician about your blood pressure questions and concerns. Make it a determined goal to become heart healthy!
The Gatti Blog
Information, tips and more from the Gatti Pharmacists and staff.