Almost half of Americans have high blood pressure, new guidelines say

Faith Castro
November 15, 2017

The American Heart Association released a major update regarding new blood pressure guidelines and under the changes, more Americans are considered to have high blood pressure.

Readings even below those numbers - previously called "pre-hypertension" or "high-normal blood pressure" - signify serious risks too.

Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at Yale University, said the new definition will radically change how primary care doctors interact with their patients.

The higher a person's blood pressure, the higher their risk is of developing heart disease, which means they're more likely to suffer poor health and die early, according to the guideline authors.

Potentially deadly high blood pressure can be brought under control with a wide array of medications, many sold as relatively low-priced generics. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg; elevated is systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80; Stage I is systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89; and Stage II is systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg.

Almost half of American adults have high blood pressure under new guidelines released by heart health experts.

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Dr. Calvin says that can be addressed with lifestyle changes like eating more fruits and veggies, increasing exercise, and minimizing alcohol consumption.

Now 46 percent of US adults will have high blood pressure.

Damage to blood vessels is already beginning once blood pressure reaches 130/80, said the guidelines, which were based in part on a major U.S. government-funded study of over 9,000 people nationwide.

The new guidelines also emphasize the importance of accurate blood pressure measurements, using an average of different readings at different times.

The new guidelines eliminate the prehypertension category.

Medication is recommended for people with stage 1 hypertension only "if a patient has already had a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke, or is at high risk of heart attack or stroke based on age, the presence of diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease or calculation of atherosclerotic risk". "Rather, it brings to light the need to make lifestyle changes".

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