Know your numbers: Blood pressure guidelines have changed

Even slightly elevated blood pressure (BP) can hurt your health. That’s why it’s important to understand the new guidelines and recommendations for managing your blood pressure.

New blood pressure recommendations

Experts now recommend lower rates than what were previously considered normal. Keeping your blood pressure low helps reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and other life-threatening health problems.

Terms to know:

Systolic: The pressure in your blood vessels when the heart contracts and pumps blood.

Diastolic: The pressure in your blood vessels when the heart rests between beats.


Systolic (upper number)

Diastolic (lower number)


Less than 120

Less than


120- 129

Less than

High blood pressure – stage one


80 – 89

High blood pressure – stage two

140 or higher

90 or

Hypertensive crisis – talk to your doctor immediately

Higher than 180

Higher than 120


Managing your blood pressure

You can take steps to lower your blood pressure and protect your health. Here are some ideas:

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Know your numbers

When you have your annual exam, be sure to ask your doctor about your blood pressure. Most people with high blood pressure want to stay below 130/80. Your doctor can recommend what’s best for you.

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Make a plan

If you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, make a plan with your doctor to lower it.


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Consider medication

If your doctor recommends medicine to control your blood pressure, be sure to take it as directed.


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Keep track

Test your blood pressure often, even if you’re away from home. Share results with your doctor. Learn more about your risk factors with the American Heart Association’s blood pressure calculator.

Lead a healthy lifestyle:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Set a goal of a body mass index (BMI) between 18 and 25.
  • Eat healthy: Choose fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Try to limit saturated and total fat.
  • Limit salt: Try to stay under 1500 mg of sodium a day.
  • Be active: Aim for 40 minutes of activity three to four times a week.
  • Limit alcohol: For women, no more than one drink per day; for men, no more than two.

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Source: American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association guidelines


U8351 January 2020