Redefined blood pressure guidelines means yours could be too high

The new standard means that almost half (46 percent) of the USA population will be defined as having high blood pressure.

The American Heart Association redefined what it means to have high blood pressure.

A large, government-sponsored study of hypertension patients aged 50 and older showed in 2015 that death from heart-related causes fell 43 percent and heart failure rates dropped 38 percent when their systolic blood pressure was lowered below 120 versus those taken to a target of under 140.

"I think people are going to be alarmed to wake up this morning to find out that they have hypertension, when they didn't have hypertension yesterday", says Dr. James Jarvis, interim vice president and chief medical officer at Eastern Maine Medical Center.

The guidelines were presented at the heart association's annual Scientific Sessions in Anaheim, Calif.

Doctor Andrew Calvin of Mayo Clinic Health System says the new guidelines come with the commonality of high blood pressure today.

The American Heart Association says falling into this category won't always call for medication, but it's rather a yellow light to lowering blood pressure.

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Potentially deadly high blood pressure can be brought under control with a wide array of medications, many sold as relatively affordable generics.

The guidelines recommend lifestyle changes, eating a healthy, low-sodium diet, rich in potassium - bananas, potatoes, avocados, leafy green vegetables - weight loss, exercise, and cutting out alcohol and tobacco.

"The earlier we treat the blood pressure though, the greater the protection from future heart attacks". But only a small percentage of those patients will be prescribed anti-hypertensive medication, the association said.

"High blood pressure is now defined as readings of 130 mm Hg and higher for the systolic blood pressure measurement, or readings of 80 and higher for the diastolic measurement", said the guidelines.

"High blood pressure is called the silent killer because it usually has no signs or symptoms to go with it", says Dr. Calvin.

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

  • Marjorie Miles