Changing Definitions of High Blood Pressure for the 2020s
Changes of Definitions and Effects of Aging
Some of us in health and medical professions have been frustrated by medical definition changes, especially the definition of high blood pressure (HBP) or hypertension.
No matter what the definition, many people have HBP without even knowing it. And many who do know do not comply with measures that can lower their blood pressure as well as the risks for heart attack and stroke (e.g., diet, exercise, stress management, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol intake, individual factors, and others).
To the health practitioner dealing with blood pressure and cardiovascular risk factors, the total blood system landscape makes a Gordian Knot.
U.S. Blood Pressure Guidelines Since 2010
Average ("Normal") - BOTH numbers must fall into line
120 - 139
Stage 1 HBP (EITHER number)
140 - 149
90 - 99
Stage 2 HBP (EITHER number)
Examples of Hypertension Levels by New Guidelines
- Normal: 119/79
- Elevated: Systolic 120-129 and diastolic 79 or less
- Stage 1 Hypertension: Systolic 130-139 or diastolic 80-89
- Stage 2 Hypertension: Systolic 140+ or diastolic 90+
- Hypertensive Crisis: Systolic 180+ and/or diastolic 120+
Frustrating Changes in HBP Definitions
After several years of quoting "120/80" as normal blood pressure and "140/90" as HBP, we were told by medical professors in the1990s that we were incorrect.
By 2003, new national guidelines in America were in place and were more clearly stated by the National Institutes of Health in 2010.
We began to be directed that:
- 120/80 is the lower limit of pre-hypertension.
- 119/79 is "high normal."
I felt thereafter that I had to be very careful about what I told clients and test participants so as not to be alarmist.
Many people have the condition (hypertension) without knowing they have it
Seek a Trusted Qualified Opinion for Heart Health
While some useful information exists here and in official website data from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, the Red Cross, and other organizations, I think it is important that you be working with a licensed healthcare or a well-trained and knowledgeable alternative health practitioner in order to determine the healthiest blood pressure levels for your individual Self.
The same may be stated for other vital signs and other biological/health readings. I can't point from the Internet and say "so-and-so has high blood pressure." However, some physicians are beginning to consult with some patients over the Internet. In the future, we can probably send many of our vital signs over the web.
NOTE: A single reading with a high number is not a final diagnosis of high blood pressure. Take more than one reading over time, compare them, and consult with your healthcare practitioner!
To Infinity and Beyond With BP Rates
Critical Blood Pressure
Recommended definitions for HBP and hypertension may change again as humankind begins to explore deep space and live and work on the Moon and asteroids that we will mine for resources. This may occur before the year 2024, the year NASA was ordered by the Trump Administration to return to Luna.
One critical consideration is that there exists a condition known formally as Uncontrollable High Blood Pressure (HBP).
No medication, no technique, nothing works to lower and stabilize this blood pressure condition.
I listened as a group of Ohio physicians in the early 1990s discussed that they would like to construct a cardiovascular treatment clinic on the Moon for these cases, the reduced gravity believed to probably reduce blood pressure permanently. It is an interesting notion.
Medical lecturers I have heard stated in the late 1990s that perhaps the blood pressures of senior citizens increases with age overall as a natural process of aging.
Today, many articles submit that average blood pressure raises with age, but that the rising BP rates can be lowered with preventive measures, especially if taken up in earlier life. But how high is high?
How's Your Blood Pressure
Ohio physicians in the early 1990s discussed that they would like to construct a cardiovascular treatment clinic on the Moon.
How Blood Pressure Changes in Space
Even after studying and working with blood pressure risk prevention and treatment, I want to consider individual differences in people as well as national guidelines, so I advise people to ask their healthcare providers about their own readings and not to rely 100% on tables of guidelines. Guidelines do not represent individual differences.
Guidelines change, new information emerges every day, and we may not have immediate access to it all, even with the Internet running 24/7.
New journal articles are sometimes available only at a high fee, for example. I read MayoClinic.com regularly for new information and there, I learned that human blood pressure is generally higher in winter than summer - a seasonal difference. I did not learn that in my medical classes.
America is deeply into Mars exploration and colonization; privatized space flight is increasing and all of this may show that we need new guidelines for blood pressure that changes "out there."
Important Questions for the Future
- How many G-forces can one tolerate and how does this tolerance change per every decade or year of aging? -- Senator John Glenn was able to fly into space and tolerate G-forces at the age of 77. His blood pressure did not present a problem.
- Could an older person die on a roller coaster or a rocket launch because of blood pressure events? They probably could. Increasing G-forces occur on roller coasters as well, and coaster operators warn riders about high blood pressure.
- People living in extraterrestrial colonies in a gravity less than Earth's will likely experience lower blood pressure. But then, how low is low? -- In space, calcium leeches out of bones and teeth, and muscles lose mass and tone, no matter how much exercise is done. Ongoing aerospace medical research is examining the unwanted decrease in eyesight (to the extent of becoming legally blind) and blood pressure changes at this time.
In the coming years, we may develop a set of blood pressure guidelines specifically for individuals who live and work in outer space, on the Moon, and on Mars. In fact, we may need three sets of guidelines for these three places.
- American College of Cardiology. New ACC/AHA High Blood Pressure Guidelines Lower Definition of Hypertension
- American Heart Association. Understanding Blood Pressure Readings; 2017.
- Canadian Space Agency and NASA. Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Control on Return from ISS (CCISS); 2007.
- Keane, S. NASA aims for moon space station for live-in astronauts in next 10 years. Cnet.com; July 19, 2018.
- NASA. Cardiovascular System Gets 'Lazy' in Space; New Study Gets Blood Flowing on Station. Cardiovascular systems get 'lazy' in space, but a new study gets blood flowing on board the space station; 2007.
- University of Waterloo. Research Institute for Aging: Vascular Aging Program. Life in Space for Life on Earth Symposium; 2018.
- The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health. Physician's Group Plans Lunar Habitat for Patients with Uncontrollable Hypertension; 1994.
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2010 Patty Inglish MS