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Sinclair Cares | New blood pressure guidelines

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Gail Mates says after her parents died, she fell into depression...

"I actually became quite scared because everyone in my family has died of heart disease and I'm next in line"

She turned to food for comfort, which led to major health issues, including high blood pressure. Hers was 150 over 110, normal blood pressure is 120 over 80.

"My daughter would come into my room and I'd wake up and see her- she'd be hovering over me to see if I was breathing. She said I wasn't going to be around for her children and she was right."

New guidelines released by the American Heart Association define high blood pressure as a reading higher than 130 over 80. It used to be 140 over 90.

So now instead of one in three adult Americans being impacted, now nearly half of all adults have high blood pressure.

"The goal is not to get more people on medication, but to get more people to modify their behavior"

Dr. Richard Benson with Medstar Washington Hospital Center hopes the stricter definition will be a wake-up call for patients to take high blood pressure more seriously. It's a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. But improvements in diet and exercise can be quite effective at lowering your blood pressure.

"People that exercise for 20-30 minute a day at least 3 times a week had a lower rate of cardiovascular disease. People can exercise, start instituting a diet more similar to the Mediterranean diet"

Gail did both, starting with just five minutes of exercise a week and building up. She's also very careful about her diet- selecting fresh, not processed, foods.

She's lost 65 pounds and no longer has high blood pressure or diabetes.

"It's all about small simple changes add up to big results."

"My cardiologist said because of this, and exercise I'm doing, I'm saving my life every day."

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