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Published: Nov 15th, 2017

New Guidelines Mean More of Us Should be Treated for High Blood Pressure

New Guidelines for High Blood Pressure

New parameters set forth by the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and nine other health professional organizations may give you high blood pressure … at least your current BP readings will perhaps now be considered hypertension.

The old guidelines said any blood pressure of 140 over 90 or higher would be considered high blood pressure. Under the new guideline, both men and women should be treated if their blood pressure is 130 over 80 or higher.

Nearly half of all adult Americans will be considered to have high blood pressure under new guidelines issued by the nation's top heart health organizations.

"Reducing the blood pressure under 130 over 80, lower than what we thought before, prevents more heart attacks, prevents more strokes, and prevents death and so that's why the guidelines have changed," says Dr. Haitham Ahmed, Preventative Cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

The new guidelines will classify 103.3 million people as having high blood pressure, while the previous guidelines placed only 72.2 million Americans in this category, according to the authors of the report.

Dr. Paul Whelton, chair of the 2017 Hypertension Practice Guidelines and a professor of Global Public Health at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans says 46% of the US adult population will be considered to have high blood pressure. That's a 14 percent increase from the previous guidelines, under which 72.2 million Americans (32 percent of adults) were considered to have high blood pressure.

“The latest medical evidence has proven that people with blood pressure in the 130-139 range carry a doubled risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney failure, compared to those with lower blood pressure”, said Dr. Joaquin Cigarroa, a member of the clinical guidelines task force.

Previously, those people were considered to have prehypertension, but not actual high blood pressure.

Blood pressure categories in the new guidelines are:

  • Normal: Less than 120 systolic pressure (the top number).
  • Prehypertension: 120 to 129.
  • Stage 1: Systolic between 130 and139.
  • Stage 2: Systolic of 140 or higher.

Systolic pressure is the amount of pressure in your arteries during contraction of the heart muscle.

"By being more aggressive when people are younger, we hope to prevent bad outcomes later," Dr. Siddharth Gandhi of Advocate Heart Institute at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Illinois.

The goal of the guideline is to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Strokes are also a major cause of long-term care in addition to death.

“What we now know, from several clinical trials involving more than 140,000 patients, that if we get that blood pressure down even lower, less than 130 over 80, maybe even down to the 120’s over 70’s – then you can reduce risk of heart attack, reduce risk of stroke and increase their longevity,” said Dr. Ahmed.

Dr. Ahmed said the first step towards lowering blood pressure, for most people, involves lifestyle modifications, such as reducing sodium intake, losing weight, exercising more, reducing alcohol intake and eating a diet that is high in fiber and lower in fat.