A few years ago, the federal government revised its high blood pressure guidelines after research showed that even slightly elevated blood pressure starts damaging the arteries and increasing the risk of a heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. The new guidelines specify the blood pressure numbers that indicate when a person is considered “hypertensive,” as well as a new category for “prehypertensive” people who are at risk for developing high blood pressure. The new category is a red flag to spur Americans to make the kinds of lifestyle changes that you are interested in. The idea is to prevent the upward creep of blood pressure that tends to happen with age.
A rising heart rate does not cause your blood pressure to increase at the same rate. Even though your heart is beating more times a minute, healthy blood vessels dilate (get larger) to allow more blood to flow through more easily. When you exercise, your heart speeds up so more blood can reach your muscles. It may be possible for your heart rate to double safely, while your blood pressure may respond by only increasing a modest amount.
Diabetics often have lower recommendations for blood pressure, the maximum normal value being seen as 130/80-85. However, it’s questionable whether it’s a good idea to medicate your blood pressure levels down to those values. Diabetics can probably stick to approximately the same upper limit as people with heart disease: 140/90 (according to new studies and expert comments, as well as the latest recommendations from the American Diabetes Association, ADA).