Controlling High Blood Pressure

In May 2003, new guidelines were released that lowered normal blood pressure to a reading of 120/80 millimeters of mercury. Anything higher can significantly raise the risk of heart disease. Here are some steps to take and facts to know to keep your pressure down.

Nearly 60 million Americans have high blood pressure. "If a person is on a medicine and thinks their blood pressure is under control, they may be sadly mistaken," says cardiologist James Rippe, M.D., of Rippe Health Assessment at Florida Hospital/Celebration Health in Celebration, Fla. He says more than half of those who take medication are not controlled.

The new norm is 120/80 mm Hg, which was lowered last year, Dr. Rippe says, for good reason. "For every 20 millimeters of mercury systolic -- that's the higher number -- that you increase, or 10 millimeters diastolic, the lower number that you increase, you double your risk of heart disease."

Exercising 30 minutes a day, limiting salt, and more calcium and potassium can lower blood pressure.

And these tips aren't just for the average Joe. Just ask football hall-of-famer Joe Montana. "He said my blood pressure was extremely high, and I should do almost like the Monopoly game, 'Please go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Go straight to the cardiologist,'" Montana tells Ivanhoe.

His blood pressure used to be off the charts. Montana says: "As an athlete, you spend so much time being active, that it almost doesn't matter what you eat or it doesn't feel like it does, but you can't continue those habits after you retire. I found that out."

Like many people, Montana's medication wasn't enough. He uses a combination drug to keep his pressure down. His message is simple. "If you're on medication, you should still make sure you're being checked because that medication may not be enough, as it was in my case," he says.

With his blood pressure under control, Montana can now face the next phase of his life -- with his health in check.

If you would like more information, please contact:

American Heart Association