For the first time in more than a decade the American Heart Association is changing the guidelines for high blood pressure. This means nearly half of U.S. adults may be at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke.
Tens of millions more Americans will soon be learning they have hypertension. The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology are now defining a top reading of 130 or more, or a bottom reading of 80 or more, as high blood pressure. The old definition of high was 140 over 90.
“Most of them just need to know they are at high risk, but they can manage that problem on their own,” said Dr. Paul Whelton, the lead author of the AHA/ACA guidelines.
Under the new guidelines,120 or less is still normal blood pressure, but up to 129 is considered elevated and at 130 begin different stages of high blood pressure, and an increasing risk of heart attack and stroke.
Although 14 percent more people will be diagnosed with high blood pressure, only a small portion will take home prescriptions.
Dr. Whelton explained, “preventing getting hypertension is much better than treating hypertension. It’s good to treat it when it’s there, but it is way better to prevent it.”
This change is expected to have the biggest impact on men and women under 45. Doctors say that age group would have to exercise more, have a better diet, particularly one low in sodium, restrict alcohol intake and lower stress.
The new guidelines emphasize making sure blood pressure readings are accurate. The authors say blood pressure levels should be based on two or three readings at least two times and that people should learn the proper techniques for checking their blood pressure at home.