Blood pressure guidelines changing

Recommendations changed for patients

WESTON, Fla. - A blood pressure reading is one of the most basic, non-invasive diagnostic tools in medicine.

The numbers -- one high or systolic and one low or diastolic -- tell your health care professional how hard your heart is working to pump blood through the body.

"Blood pressure means the pressure of the blood in your arteries, basically," said Dr. Gabriel Gavrilescu with Cleveland Clinic Florida.

For years, doctors have been told that people under 60 years old should have a blood pressure reading no higher than 120 over 80 in order to avoid the risk of heart attack, stroke or kidney disease, while those 60 and older needed to keep their blood pressure at 140 over 90 or lower.

But new guidelines are pushing those numbers higher as 140 over 90 is the upper limit for those under 60 years old and 150 over 90 for those 60 and older.

"We always felt that probably elderly should have a higher blood pressure goal than the youngest people because the arteries become stiffer, so we don't measure only the pressure of the blood in the arteries -- we measure also the wall and the wall accounts for a higher blood pressure," said Gavrilescu.

David Kofler was diagnosed with hypertension in 2002. A steady regime of regular exercise and medication has since helped him bring his blood pressure down to safe levels.

"I'm 88 and hoping to go on for quite a while, so it's a matter of mental outlook and how you go about preserving your functions," he said.

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