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What are optimal blood pressure targets?

Blood pressure targets are usually based on guidelines published by both local and international organisations specialising in cardiovascular risk. For example, The Australian Heart Foundation, The American Heart Association, and WHO (World Health Organisation).

While these guidelines don’t have a set schedule for review, blood pressure targets are explored as new studies are published.1

Unfortunately, international guidelines and targets may differ from those adopted locally, making it somewhat confusing. However, one thing is for certain – the optimal blood pressure targets are trending to lower numbers.2 The controversy tends to be around the level of blood pressure that treatment with medicines should be introduced.1,2

Your doctor is best equipped to judge whether your blood pressure needs attention3, but current advice from the Australian Heart Foundation is that ‘normal’ blood pressure should be4:

  • Systolic blood pressure (the top number) under 120 mm Hg
  • Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) under 80 mm Hg

Usually expressed as 120/80.

If you’d like to know what those number mean, you can read a quick overview here or here.

Most people with high blood pressure show no symptoms5, which is why hypertension is often referred to as a silent disease.

The best advice is to have regular blood pressure checks, whether that be at the doctors, your pharmacist, or at home using a home blood pressure monitoring device.

Another bit of good advice is that prevention is better than cure.

There are lots of things we can do to help achieve that optimal goal of 120/80, and in doing so, reduce our risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular issues – without using medicines.

Here’s a quick summary to get you started:4,6,7

  1. Diet – eat a healthy diet that includes whole foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, seeds and cooking in ‘good’ oils such as olive or canola instead of saturated or trans fats. Eat less salt.
  2. Exercise – you don’t have to run a marathon but incorporating some physical activity in your day will help. Aim for 30 minutes per day. And if you’re stuck at a desk, stand up regularly and move around
  3. Nicotine – quit smoking and vaping
  4. Weight – maintaining a healthy weight helps reduce the risk elevated blood pressure. (And if you take care of points 1 and 2 above, you might be well on the way)
  5. Sleep – apart from all the other health benefits, including brain function, getting a good night’s sleep every night is vital to cardiovascular health
  6. Cholesterol – you’ve probably heard it before. Check levels regularly and avoid those bad fats that can raise cholesterol levels
  7. Blood sugar – type 2 diabetes is another risk factor for high blood pressure. If you have type 2 diabetes, the risk of complications with high blood pressure is increased. Make sure you manage it well and follow the instructions of your health care professional
  8. Finally, monitor your blood – no symptoms means that’s the only way to know. Home blood pressure monitors are a great addition to your first aid kit. They’re very affordable, easy to use, and accurate. Check out the range of the world’s leading blood pressure monitors here, so you can keep track of your blood pressure fluctuations for your doctor to evaluate.

Always read the label and follow the directions for use. For people with high blood pressure. Consult your doctor to evaluate the readings. Check your device periodically for accuracy.

Sources:

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/reading-the-new-blood-pressure-guidelines
  2. https://www.nps.org.au/australian-prescriber/articles/blood-pressure-at-what-level-is-treatment-worthwhile
  3. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/blood-pressure
  4. https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/Bundles/Your-heart/Blood-pressure-and-your-heart
  5. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/what-is-a-healthy-blood-pressure
  6. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/how-to-lower-blood-pressure
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/sleep.htm

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