Dr. Rachel: What do the new blood pressure guidelines really mean?

NEW ORLEANS -- A recent change in the guidelines for hypertension -- or high blood pressure -- has left many people wondering what this means for them.

News with a Twist teaching doctor, Dr. Rachel, has some answers for you.

Normal blood pressure is 120/80. That hasn't changed. But under the new guidelines, you are diagnosed with high blood pressure if your numbers are 130/80. Before, it was 140/90.

Why the change?

Dr. Rachel explains that the guidelines were modified to help people take steps to control their blood pressure earlier to prevent high blood pressure, which is the major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in the world.

You need a few blood pressure readings before you get the diagnosis of high blood pressure.  Lots of people have "white coat" hypertension when they are in the doctor`s office because they are nervous.

Dr. Rachel recommends that you get a blood pressure machine and take your blood pressure at home when you first wake up.

Many people are concerned that they will have to start taking medication for their high blood pressure. But if a person has just the high blood pressure, say 136/82, then lifestyle changes can be tried, such as weight loss with a heart-healthy diet, reducing salt intake, stopping smoking, and increasing your physical activity.

After 3-6 months, get your blood pressure checked to see if it has gone down.

If you have risk factors for heart disease or stroke such as diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, smoking, obesity with unhealthy diet and minimal physical activity, then you will likely be started on medication.

But don't let it get there! Live healthy, and keep it at 120/80.