Washington Health System

155 Wilson Avenue Washington, PA 15301   (724) 225-7000

The New Rules of High Blood Pressure

Written by Emily King

Hypertension is one of the most common health problems
for Americans—according to 2016 numbers, nearly
a third of U.S. adults have high blood pressure. What
is even worse is that only about half of those affected
actually have the condition controlled. Now these
numbers will increase as the American College of
Cardiology and the American Heart Association have developed new
blood pressure targets and treatment recommendations for 2017.
Patients are now considered to have Stage I hypertension at a systolic
blood pressure of 130-139mmHg or diastolic blood pressure of 80-
89mmHg, which is a lower target than the previous guidelines.

We spoke with Benjamin Susco MD, FACC of Washington
Health System Cardiovascular Care about how the changes in the
hypertension guidelines will affect the general population. He also
shared some of his recommendations for preventing and lowering high
blood pressure.

“Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, can be described
as the pressure of blood being pumped through your arteries that is
higher than it should be,” notes Dr. Susco. High blood pressure is
dangerous because it increases your risk for several dangerous health
issues. High blood pressure is a contributing factor of 70% of first
heart attacks and 80% of first strokes. Seventy percent of people who
are diagnosed with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure and
kidney disease is also a major risk factor for high blood pressure.

“Some risk factors for developing hypertension include obesity, aging,
diabetes, tobacco abuse, heavy caffeine usage, a sedentary lifestyle,
emotional stress and a poor diet with high levels of sodium intake,” says
Dr. Susco. Though some of these conditions are hard to control, you
can take steps to prevent high blood pressure by stopping smoking,
decreasing the amount of salt in your food, lowering your stress and
your alcohol intake, and by living a healthier lifestyle that includes more

The changes in the guidelines for defining and diagnosing high
blood pressure aim to encourage people to take a more active role in
lowering blood pressure earlier on. As more people are diagnosed with
hypertension, healthcare providers will be able to make their patients
more aware of their blood pressure and begin lifestyle modifications
earlier on. Dr. Susco thinks the new rules will be beneficial to his
patients. “This change in classification is beneficial because this starts
by having the patient taken active role in changing their lifestyles, before
medical therapy is needed.”

“A patient should consider seeing a physician if they have elevated
blood pressure. By the new ACC/AHA 2017 guidelines, elevated
systolic blood pressure is considered 120-129mmHg. Hypertension
is now diagnosed when systolic blood pressure is greater than
130mmHg,” he says. These organizations recommend lifestyle changes
and reassessment of blood pressure in 3-6 months after the initial

For most patients, the first line of treatment is to employ the lifestyle
changes mentioned before. Most doctors will recommend a low sodium
diet such as the DASH diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables and
grains. Increasing physical activity and decreasing alcohol consumption
are healthy recommendations as well.

Of course, as is the case with many life-threatening conditions,
medication may be necessary. Your doctor may prescribe medication
if attempts at lowering blood pressure fail. Many health professionals
are hopeful that by changing the guidelines for hypertension diagnosis,
earlier intervention may reduce the need for eventual medication.

If you’re concerned about your blood pressure, you can speak with your
Primary Care Provider (PCP) or make an appointment with a WHS
Cardiologist. They see patients in four convenient locations, details

Additional Source:

If you need more information or would like to make
an appointment, please call (724) 225-6500.
WHS Cardiovascular Care
Washington................125 N. Franklin Drive, Suite. 1
Cecil..........................................3415 Millers Run Road
McMurray.......................1001 Waterdam Plaza Drive
Waynesburg...............350 Bonar Avenue, 3rd Floor
(724) 225-6500 whs.org

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Stephanie Wagoner
(724) 223-3774