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Changing Definitions of Hypertension or High Blood Pressure

Updated on September 7, 2018
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (Active AF Civil Air Patrol).

Changes of Definitions and Effects of Aging

Some of us have been frustrated by medical definition changes, especially the definition of high blood pressure (hypertension).

No matter what the definition, many people have the condition without knowing they have it and many that do know do not comply with measures that can lower the numbers and the risks for heart attack and stroke, e.g. diet, exercise, stress management, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol intake, individual factors, etc.

To the health practitioner dealing with blood pressure and cardiovascular risk factors, the total landscape makes a Gordian Knot.

Many people have the condition (hypertension) without knowing they have it

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Apollo 4 Saturn V night launch. Will living in space reduce high blood pressure?Expedition 15 Flight Engineer Clay Anderson works with a Continuous Blood Pressure Device (CBPD) and computer.
Apollo 4 Saturn V night launch. Will living in space reduce high blood pressure?
Apollo 4 Saturn V night launch. Will living in space reduce high blood pressure?
Expedition 15 Flight Engineer Clay Anderson works with a Continuous Blood Pressure Device (CBPD) and computer.
Expedition 15 Flight Engineer Clay Anderson works with a Continuous Blood Pressure Device (CBPD) and computer. | Source

One critical consideration is that there exists a condition known as Uncontrollable High Blood Pressure. No medication, no technique, nothing works on it. A group of Ohio physicians in the early AD 1990s felt that they would like to construct a blood pressure clinic on the Moon for these cases, the reduced gravity felt to probably reduce the blood pressures. It is an interesting notion.

I have heard various professional thoughts regarding hypertension in our universities and clinics. One such thought was that perhaps the blood pressures of senior citizens increase with age, because they are supposed to do so, naturally.

Today, many articles report that average blood pressure raises with age, but the numbers can be lowered with preventive measures, especially if taken up in earlier life. But how high is high?

While some useful information exists here and in official website data from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, the Red Cross, and other organizations, I think it is important that you be working with a licensed healthcare or a well-trained and knowledgeable alternative health practitioner in order to determine the healthiest blood pressure levels for your individual Self.

The same may be stated for other vital signs and other biological/health readings. I can't point from the Internet and say "so-and-so has high blood pressure." However, some physicians are beginning to consult with some patients over the Internet. In the future, we can probably send many of our vital signs over the web.

US Blood Pressure Guidelines for AD 2010

Level 
Systolic 
Diastolic 
Average ("Normal") - BOTH numbers must fall into line 
119
79
Pre-hypertensive
120 - 139 
80 -89 
Stage 1 HBP (EITHER number)
140 - 149
90 - 99
Stage 2 HBP (EITHER number)
160+
100+
 
 
 
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Guidelines 2010. Data provided by the US National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services.

Frustrating Changes in Definitions

After several years of quoting "120/80" as normal blood pressure and "140/90" as high, we were told in the AD 1990s that we were incorrect. By 2003, new national guidelines in America were in place.

We began to be directed that the reading 120/80 was the lower limit of pre-hypertension. In fact, 119/79 was "high normal." I felt I had to be very careful about what I told clients and test participants so as not to be alarmist.

Examples of Hypertension Levels by New Guidelines

  • Normal: 119/79
  • Elevated: Systolic 120-129 and diastolic 79 or less
  • Stage 1 Hypertension: Systolic 130-139 or diastolic 80-89
  • Stage 2 Hypertension: Systolic 140+ or diastolic 90+
  • Hypertensive Crisis: Systolic 180+ and/or diastolic 120+

NOTE: A single reading with a high number is not a final diagnosis of high blood pressure. Take more than one reading over time, compare them, and consult with your healthcare practitioner!

NASA, 1982. "Self-growing lunar factory." Is a moon base the answer to uncontrollable hypertension?
NASA, 1982. "Self-growing lunar factory." Is a moon base the answer to uncontrollable hypertension? | Source

How Blood Pressure Changes in Space

Even after studying and working with blood pressure risk prevention and treatment, I want to consider individual differences in people as well as national guidelines, so I advise people to ask their healthcare providers about their own readings and not to rely 100% on tables of guidelines. Guidelines do not represent individual differences.

Guidelines change, new information emerges every day, and we may not have immediate access to it all, even with the Internet running 24/7.

New journal articles are sometimes available only at a high fee, for example. I read MayoClinic.com regularly for new information and there, I learned that human blood pressure is generally higher in winter than summer - a seasonal difference. I did not learn that in my medical classes.

America is deeply into Mars exploration and colonization; privatized space flight is increasing and all of this may show that we need new guidelines for blood pressure that changes "out there."

Questions

How many G-forces can one tolerate and how does this tolerance change per every decade or year of aging?

Senator John Glenn was able to fly into space and tolerate G-forces at the age of 77. His blood pressure did not present a problem.

Increasing G-forces occur on roller coasters as well, and coaster operators warn riders about high blood pressure.Could an older person die on a roller coaster or a rocket launch because of blood pressure events? They probably could.

People living in extraterrestrial colonies in a gravity less than Earth's will likely experience lower blood pressure. But then, how low is low?

In space, calcium leeches from bones and teeth, and muscles lose mass and tone no matter how much exercise is done. Ongoing aerospace medical research is examining the unwanted decrease in eyesight (to the extent of becoming legally blind) and blood pressure changes at this time.

In the AD 2020s, we may develop a set of blood pressure guidelines specifically for individuals who live and work in outer space, the Moon, and Mars. In fact, we may need three sets of guidelines for these three places.

First US Space Shuttle mission, STS-1, Space Shuttle Columbia; 1981. AStronauts experienced lowered blood pressure that caused lightheadedness.
First US Space Shuttle mission, STS-1, Space Shuttle Columbia; 1981. AStronauts experienced lowered blood pressure that caused lightheadedness. | Source

Sources

  • American College of Cardiology. New ACC/AHA High Blood Pressure Guidelines Lower Definition of Hypertension www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2017/11/08/11/47/mon-5pm-bp-guideline-aha-2017 Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  • Canadian Space Agency. Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Control on Return from ISS (CCISS); 2007. www.space.gc.ca/asc/eng/sciences/hughson_richard.asp Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  • Keane, S. NASA aims for moon space station for live-in astronauts in next 10 years. Cnet.com; July 19, 2018. www.cnet.com/news/nasa-aims-for-moon-space-station-for-live-in-astronauts-in-next-10-years/ Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  • NASA. Cardiovascular System Gets 'Lazy' in Space; New Study Gets Blood Flowing on Station. Cardiovascular systems get 'lazy' in space, but a new study gets blood flowing on board the space station; 2007. www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/cciss_feature.html Retreived May 12, 2017.
  • NASA. Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Control on Return from ISS (CCISS); 2007. (White paper). Retrieved June 19, 2007.
  • University of Waterloo. Research Institute for Aging: Vascular Aging Program. Life in Space for Life on Earth Symposium. www.the-ria.ca/?s=blood+pressure Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  • The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health. Physician's Group Plans Lunar Habitat for Patients with Uncontrollable Hypertension; 1994.

© 2010 Patty Inglish MS

Comments

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      David - I hope you are feelking well now; blood pressures can be extremely frustrating.

      kaltopsyd - That had totally slipped my mind. I remember learning 4 different CPR methods for adults in about 20 years; so I am going to review my latest manuals today!

    • kaltopsyd profile image

      kaltopsyd 

      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      Thank you, Ms. Patty for an amazingly written article. I enjoyed reading it and learning something new as well. It's amazing how things change in the medical field - and quite often too. This change reminded me of how the method for CPR and other rescue techniques have changed in the last few years. Thanks for writing this article - so clear, organised and easy to read.

    • profile image

      david stillwagon 

      8 years ago

      I have had problems with keeping my blood pressure "normal" for years. I find that if it gets too high I usually get a bad headache if too low then I get light headed.

      Through the years I have had to adjust the meds I take. It can be quite a juggling act.

      Terrific well thought out hub

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      You have raised a very important topic and included a lot of information which bound to help. These days with all the stress and pressure it is very important to keep an eye on blood pressure which can cause strokes and heartattacks unnecessarily. Thank you, Patty, for writing such an appreciated hub.

    • LeanMan profile image

      Tony 

      8 years ago from At the Gemba

      I hope I get to live on a colony on mars one day to check the effects of my blood pressure! Fine hub.

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 

      8 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Thank you for this important article. Each person is different, and I am glad that someone is taking notice of that. Great Hub.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Jerilee - Thanks for reading and I send you and your husband best wishes for health and comfort. It can all be so frustrating and frightening. Your information sharing helps the rest of us as well and thanks for that. I know little about the irregular heart beat and this reminds me to read about it. Hugs to you!

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      8 years ago from United States

      Because of my husband's ongoing heart issues I am required to take his blood pressure several times a day and report that back to telephone triage nurses. This article helped me to understand a little better what the numbers could mean. I have high blood pressure and take medication too, but only check my own occasionally as it stresses me to know too much sometimes. The blood pressure machines the VA provides us with also measure pulse and heart rhythm and it seems that when the blood pressure is up, is when he gets the irregular heart beat warnings.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for the comments!

      @DiamondRN - I know several people under treatment for both. Can be very serious.

      @theindianblues - Glad you liked it!

      @Georzetta - The American Heart Assn. advises only to ask one's doctor how often is best, but also that a professional should take the reading at least once every 2 years. I like to see trends, so I kept the habit since grad.

      Just my opinion, but I tink people in high stress jobs working long hours may benefit from seeing their readings more often than once in 2 years.

    • Georzetta profile image

      Georzetta Ratcliffe 

      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Very interesting! Is there any information to indicate that monitoring your blood pressure several times a week is more valuable to your general health than tracking it every few months?

    • theindianblues profile image

      theindianblues 

      8 years ago from Some where on the Globe

      Good work Patty Inglish, MS; This is what I am looking for. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful and detailed hub.

    • DiamondRN profile image

      Bob Diamond RPh 

      8 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

      High blood pressure combined with high cholesterol is a recipe for strokes and heart attacks.

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