Cardiologist explains new high blood pressure guidelines

As per the new guidelines announced by the American Heart Association high blood pressure has been redefined as a reading of 130/80 mm Hg down from 140/90

28 million Americans were just diagnosed with high blood pressure under new guidelines

The American Heart Association and other medical groups just released new guidelines on what defines high blood pressure. And for more on the importance of health blood pressure, check out this guide from the AHA.

The distinction between those who now have high blood pressure and those who need medication is important: while the number of United States adults with hypertension will rise to 46 percent from 32 percent, only a small fraction of those will need drugs to treat it, say the authors of the guidelines.

A panel of healthcare associations, including the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, published new criteria this week redefining what classified as hypertension or high blood pressure. For most people, this means making lifestyle changes like eating a healthier or lower-salt diet, exercising more or losing weight.

This is the first change in blood pressure standards since 2003.

Yet, the change in guidelines does not come without a cost. "It doesn't mean you need medication, but it's a yellow light that you need to be lowering your blood pressure, mainly with non-drug approaches". If the upper blood pressure readings vary by 30-40 between doctor visits, the researchers say, that's a big red flag. Therefore, we try to incorporate these new scientific findings into health-care recommendations for people.

They say blood pressure should now be treated at 130/80 instead of 140/90. Blood pressure medication isn't like an antibiotic that you'd take for an infection and stop taking after the infection goes away.

Medication is only recommended for people with Stage I hypertension "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".

Q: What are some of the things people can do to decrease their risk under the new lower definition of high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is a problem related to lifestyle issues today. The scariest part is that high blood pressure doesn't have any obvious symptoms that you'd notice in your day-to-day life.

Q: Is this a wake-up call for American's to pay more attention to heart health in general? The bottom number ( diastolic blood pressure ) measures the pressure on your arteries when your heart is resting in between beats.

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