Did the Beginning of the Holiday Season Cause your Blood Pressure to Become Elevated this Week?

By Windon Edge

The beginning of the holiday season can certainly bring about stress. Thanksgiving is just next week. Shopping, cooking, phone calls, more shopping (forgot the cranberries), and traveling can be chaotic as the official beginning of the holiday season is upon us. However, that is not why millions of Americans suddenly found themselves with elevated blood pressure this week. Earlier this week, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology announced new guidelines defining elevated blood pressure. A systolic pressure (top number) of 120 to 129 is now considered “elevated”. This is down from the previous definition of 130 to 139. With these changes, 46% of Americans are now considered to have elevated blood pressure…up from around 32% just last week.

So, what should you do if you suddenly found yourself with hypertension this week? First, do not panic! Second, speak with your physician or nurse practitioner about your blood pressure. According to Dr. Paul Whelton, lead author of the new guidelines, this does not necessarily mean you need to be on blood pressure medication. It could mean that you need non-drug approaches to address your blood pressure. Changes in diet, exercise, weight loss, and other lifestyle modifications may be the answer for you. Some may require medication.

While this is no reason to panic, it does need to be addressed…sooner rather than later. Several organizations have produced new public service announcements that outline the potential effects of untreated hypertension such as heart attacks or strokes.

If you have suddenly found yourself hypertensive with the new guidelines, see your healthcare provider and develop a plan together. Follow the plan! However, do not dismiss the issue thinking that this is simply a result of a change in definition. Enjoy the holiday season knowing that you are on the road to a healthier you!

Windon Edge, DNP, RN; Director of Collaborative Affairs at Jacksonville State University School of Health Professions and Wellness. For more information about JSU Nursing go to: http://www.jsu.edu/nursing