High blood pressure sounds like a problem for your grandma and yes, the elderly have high blood pressure more often. But a shift in what constitutes “high blood pressure” means many of us are about to go to the doctor and find ourselves told it’s time to eat more salads and exercise a lot more. So what’s happening? Why is the standard shifting? And what does that mean for your health habits?
- Blood pressure is essentially how hard your heart works to pump blood. You know how in medical shows they say somebody’s blood pressure is some number over some number? The first number is your blood pressure when the heart contracts, the second is when it relaxes. Until now, the standard for “high blood pressure” has been 140/90. But the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology has changed that to 130/80.
- High blood pressure kills. Next to smoking, high blood pressure is one of the key preventable factors for heart disease, which is currently America’s leading killer. While heart disease among Millennials is relatively rare, it’s still a problem with 10% of all heart attacks happening to people under 45
- Even before that standard shifted, high blood pressure was a serious problem among Millennials. The National Institutes of Health, in 2011, found that 19% of Millennials had high blood pressure, which is a problem since blood pressure offers no symptoms, no way to detect it short of going to the doctor or getting a blood pressure cuff of your own (FYI, don’t trust those “blood pressure” apps.) With the new rules, doctors are expecting the number of men under 45 with high blood pressure to triple and women with it to double. Overall, the number of Americans with high blood pressure is going to jump to one out of every three
- If you’re one of those Americans, you probably won’t be able to take drugs. Despite thirty million more people joining the high blood pressure club, only a handful, 4.2 million will be candidates for medication. So, yeah, you’ve probably already guessed what that means.
- So a lot of us are going to have to change our lifestyles. Basically, you already know this stuff. Eat more vegetables and lean proteins. Avoid refined sugar, red meat, and salty snacks. Get moving with 30 minutes of activity a day. Have a drink, not five. And quit smoking.
Most of us rely on being young to save our necks when it comes to health. But, increasingly, what we define as “healthy” is shifting as we learn more about what we eat, how exercising helps us, and just what eating nothing but meat snacks and beer does to us even if we don’t feel it now. So, yeah, if you were hoping to live off wings, alcohol and cronuts for a few more years, sorry, but the party just may be over.