Published: Tue, November 14, 2017
Health | By Jay Jacobs

New guidelines mean almost half of adults suffer from high blood pressure

New guidelines mean almost half of adults suffer from high blood pressure

The nation's heart experts tightened the guidelines for high blood pressure Monday, a change that will sharply increase the number of USA adults considered hypertensive in the hope that they, and their doctors, will address the deadly condition sooner. But don't worry too much-if you are one of the newly initiated, the experts aren't suggesting anything radical.

And because of that, both the American Heart and Stroke Association have scrapped the classification of pre-hypertension.

Anyone with blood pressure higher than 130/80 will now be considered to have hypertension, or high blood pressure, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology said in releasing their new joint guidelines.

"We didn't like either of those terms because we felt-at that stage-somebody is already at substantial increased risk", he said at a briefing Monday at the AHA's annual meeting in Anaheim, California.

The new guidelines have dropped from 140/80 being considered hypertensive to 130/80 after several years of research and hundreds of studies on patients.

The change means 46 percent of USA adults are identified as having high blood pressure, compared with 32 percent under the previous definition. These individuals should start taking medicine to lower their numbers, the researchers said. The rest are urged to try healthier lifestyles first.

The study showed that bringing blood pressure below 120 versus the recommended 140 to 150 could reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. He says they will prevent disease by encouraging early treatment.

The new guidelines stress the importance of using proper technique to measure blood pressure.

Damage to blood vessels begins soon after blood pressure is elevated, said Whelton, who is the Show Chwan professor of global public health at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and School of Medicine in New Orleans. The lower number is the diastolic reading, or the pressure level between the contractions when the heart is filling with blood.

In addition to lowering the threshold for hypertension, the writing committee eliminated the category of prehypertension, which was defined as systolic blood pressure between 120-139 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure between 80-89 mm Hg.

"It leads to Renal Disease, and if you compound that with diabetes and co-morbidities that patients may have, we find that it can be very unsafe", he said.

"So some people might be thinking "oh my god" does that mean I need to be on medication, no it doesn't mean that".

The best way to deal with it is by exercising more, eating a diet low in sodium while restricting alcohol and lowering stress.

"Lifestyle modification is the cornerstone of treatment for hypertension", Carey said.

Concerns about those side effects, as well as the fact that the close monitoring seen in a clinical trial is hard to replicate, led the AHA, ACC and other groups to select the 130 systolic blood pressure target. Blood pressure levels should be based on an average of two to three readings on at least two different occasions, the authors said. "White coat hypertension", which occurs when a person's blood pressure spikes while in the doctor's office, is a known phenomenon that can mar the test's accuracy.

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