AUSTIN (KXAN) – One expert is reminding the Austin community that it’s never too late to start taking care of your heart after leading heart health groups changed the guidelines for what levels of a healthy blood pressure are.
The new guidelines established by the American Heart Association (AHA), the American College of Cardiology and nine other groups, redefines high blood pressure as a reading of 130 over 80, down from 140 over 90. It also lowers the threshold for what is considered normal blood pressure to less than 120 over 80, and creates new categories to reflect various blood pressure readings.
With these new guidelines, 45 percent of U.S. adults, many under the age of 45, could be categorized as hypertensive.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women and is responsible for 1 in 4 deaths in the country.
Caitlin Giesler, cardiologist from Seton Heart Institute, says the key to heart health is prevention, which can be achieved with a good diet and exercise.
Because the foods you eat can reduce the risk of heart disease, she says you’ll want to choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium, and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich whole grains.
She also recommends exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, five times per week, to help maintain a healthy weight. Plus, quitting smoking and limiting your alcohol intake will make a big difference.
She also added that there’s one thing people don’t always think about.
“It also means moderating your stress levels,” says Giesler, which is something she sees is a common factor for people with heart problems in Austin.
Recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack can also help with prevention.
Those symptoms include chest pressure and discomfort, feeling lightheaded, nausea, shortness of breath, plus pain in the left arm. For women, pain can radiate to the neck, jaw or back.