News That'll Do Your Heart Good

Get checked to see if you meet new health standards.
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Retesting Blood Pressure

Even if your doctor gave you a clean bill of health at your last checkup, you may want to check in again. On the basis of accumulated research, doctors are rethinking heart-health indicators, such as blood pressure and cholesterol readings. And in the case of the former, they've devised a new standard for what's healthy and what's not.

Adults with a blood pressure reading of 120/80 -- a reading long considered to be within the limits of "normal" -- could stand a chance of developing heart disease, according to a review of more than 30 studies. The new standard now classifies 120/80 as prehypertensive, a condition that can lead to stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure. "Now 120/80 serves as a wake-up call for people to start making lifestyle changes," says Sheldon G. Sheps, MD, who served on the National Institutes of Health committee that drafted the new guidelines.

What You Should Do

If your blood pressure is 120/80 or higher, get tested every year (get tested once every two years if your blood pressure is less than 120/80). For an accurate reading, sit (don't lie down; doing so can skew the reading by causing blood pressure to drop) and don't talk (talking can trigger a rise in blood pressure), says Dr. Sheps. And being anxious about being in a doctor's office may cause blood pressure to spike, so if you're feeling nervous, ask your physician to do the reading at the end of the visit when you're calmer.

Blood Pressure Stats

  • Old Normal: 120/80 to 139/89
  • New Normal: less than 120/80
  • Prehypertensive: 120/80 to 139/89
  • Hypertensive: more than 140/90

Continued on page 2:  Triglycerides Recount


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