Know your (new) numbers! Topeka doc says BP guidelines will save lives

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - New guidelines lowering the threshold for what's considered high blood pressure mean nearly half of adult Americans now fit the description.

While some question the revised standard, at least one health expert says it's a good thing.

"This is giving people a warning," said Dr. Donney Kastner, a cardiologist at Topeka's Cotton O'Neil Heart Center.

The new numbers are the first major revision of the guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology in more than a decade. The groups now say people should be treated when their readings are 130/80, rather than 140/90.

"Patients who are in the 120-140 mm range for blood pressure are already at increased risk for heart attack and stroke, and it doubles their risk in their lifetime," Kastner said.

Kastner says higher pressures can damage blood vessels.

"You think about it like a hydraulic hose. It's a high pressure hose," Kastner said. "The higher that pressure gets, you can get injury within the blood vessel, and, at those sites, a lot of times that's where your cholesterol plaque begins to form and that's where your atherosclerotic coronary vascular disease or other vascular disease at other parts of the body, including in the carotids to the brain can begin."

The good news is that most people in the new Stage 1 Hypertension range of 130 to 139 will not need medication. Instead, they'll focus on lifestyle changes to lower their risk factors.

"They lower their cholesterol, eat healthier, exercise, eat low salt, cut back on alcohol," Kastner said.

He says taking those actions now can prevent complications down the road.

"How much of us wouldn't rather not have a heart attack in 10 years? Not have a stroke in 10 years? You make these changes to your lifestyle, then your odds of having a longer, more meaningful life increase," he said.

You can support efforts for heart-healthy living and raise awareness of the risk for heart disease among women at Topeka's annual Go Red Luncheon. It's Dec. 12, 2017, at Maner Conference Ctr. Find details and ticket information at