Blood pressure guidelines tougher, more people to be diagnosed

Nov 15, 2017, 01:08
Blood pressure guidelines tougher, more people to be diagnosed

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

Previously, one in three (32 percent) had the condition, which is the second leading cause of heart disease and stroke, after cigarette smoking. Normal blood pressure is still considered under 120 mmHG for the systolic (top) number and 90 mmHG for the diastolic (bottom) number.

The new guidelines classify high blood pressure as 130/80 mm Hg rather than 140/90.

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By lowering the threshold, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology hope to spur earlier intervention, to prevent further increases in blood pressure, and the complications that come with it.

Adults with blood pressure of 130/80 "already have double the risk of heart attack compared to someone in the normal range", said Dr. Paul Whelton, professor at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and School of Medicine in New Orleans and lead author of the new guidelines.

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

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The changes were announced at the American Heart Association's 2017 Scientific Sessions conference in Anaheim, California.

The new guideline lowers that to 130 over 80. It's also known as a "silent killer" because often there are no symptoms.

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.

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Millions more Americans will be classified as having high blood pressure, but this doesn't necessarily mean more people will be put on medication. The association recommends that those with stage 1 hypertension will only be prescribed medication if they have a heart attack or stroke. It measures the amount of pressure going through your heart when it's pumping. 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.