MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - It's a change that impacts more than half-a-million people just in the Mid-South, and it could save your life.
When you go to the doctor they always take your blood pressure. 130 over 80 used to be considered something to watch. Now it's considered something to take more seriously.
In the past, the focus has been on treating people who already have heart disease. It's called the silent killer because a person may never demonstrate symptoms of the disease, and it can kill with no sign.
"Yeah, it is important to get your blood pressure checked, " said Linda Sherrod. "That's when your health problems start kicking in."
Sherrod says doctors prescribed her high blood pressure medicine about 7 years ago. She's not taking any chances. She took that medicine and changed her diet. Seems it's paid off.
She says her last reading was 118 over 81 below what doctors consider the dividing line between healthy blood pressure and possible heart disease.
"High blood pressure for most people was not defined as a disease. it's just defined as a high number," said Dr. Holger Salazar, a cardiologist at Germantown's Stern Clinic.
For years, doctors believed a range of 120 over 80, up to 140 over 90 were numbers to watch. Any higher was considered a danger zone for hypertension. Newly released guidelines from the American Heart Association lowered the thresh hold to 130 over 80.
"We have seen the difference between waiting till that blood pressure is more than 140 over 90, like the previous guidelines," says Dr. Salazar.
Doctors are seeing damage to blood vessels at lower blood pressures, including what happens when plaque and clots block the passage of blood to the heart, causing a heart attack that could kill.
The new AHA guidelines are focused on preventing instead of treating.
"We’re speaking of something we can do to prevent people from dying from heart attacks, to prevent people from dying from strokes, to prevent people from going to dialysis, to prevent people getting blind," said Salazar.
Doctors say life style changes and medication are keys to lower blood pressure before you have a heart attack.
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