New blood pressure range means half of Americans have hypertension

Joy Montgomery
November 15, 2017

Eleven medical groups including the American Heart Association are redefining the danger zone: the bar for systolic blood pressure is lowered from 140 points to 130.

Despite an increase in the amount of Americans with high blood pressure, the AHA hopes their new guidelines mean there will be only a small increase in the amount of patients requiring medication.

Doctors now recognise that complications "can occur at those lower numbers", said the first update to comprehensive U.S. guidelines on blood pressure detection and treatment since 2003.

The blood pressure categories have changed under the new guidelines.

"The new definition results in only a small increase in the percentage of US adults for whom antihypertensive medication is recommended in conjunction with lifestyle modification", according to the guidelines.

"The earlier we treat the blood pressure though, the greater the protection from future heart attacks".

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"I think the goal of the new guidelines is to get blood pressure on the radar for those at-risk patients, to make the diagnosis, to get them to do some lifestyle changes".

High blood pressure is caused when the force of blood pushing against vessel walls is too high. Then a person's reading becomes the average of those numbers and reduces the risk of "white coat hypertension" - blood pressure readings that are improperly elevated because a patient in a doctor's office is nervous.

More guidance for how people should manage their blood pressure, focusing on lifestyle improvements.

WECT's Ben Smart is interviewing two cardiologists today to understand what these new heart health guidelines mean for you. It measures the amount of pressure going through your heart when it's pumping.

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".

The AHA says the new guidelines are created to help people address the potentially deadly condition much earlier.

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