Almost Half of Americans Have High Blood Pressure Under New Guidelines

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The American Heart Association has changed the definition of hypertension for the first time in 14 years, moving the number from the old standard of 140/90 to the newly revised 130/80.

For the past 14 years, high blood pressure has been defined as 140/90, and approximately one in every three people in the USA are now diagnosed under this measurement.

The updated guidelines were presented at the AHA's Scientific Sessions in Anaheim, California, on November 13 and published by the AHA and the American College of Cardiology.

The new guidelines from the AHA mean that almost half of all American adults - 46 percent - suffer from hypertension. But there will only be a small increase in the number of USA adults who will require medication, the authors of the guidelines said. Even though 14 percent more people will diagnosed with high blood pressure, only a small percentage will take home prescriptions.

But patients in the 120 systolic blood pressure group had a higher rate of kidney injury or failure, as well as fainting. "The average person is on 2-2 ½ blood pressure pills to control".

The study showed that bringing blood pressure below 120 versus the recommended 140 to 150 could reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. "There is a reason it's known as the silent killer".

Dr. Larry Gordon from Aspirus said the association most likely made the changes to be proactive and lower the risk of people being diagnosed with more serious illnesses later on.

"So some people might be thinking "oh my god" does that mean I need to be on medication, no it doesn't mean that". If blood pressure reaches 180/120 or higher - and either number in the blood pressure reading counts - people will be classified as in hypertensive crisis with need for immediate treatment or hospitalization. Patients with those readings now will be categorized as having either elevated (120-129/ 80 mm Hg) or Stage 1 hypertension (130-139/80-89 mm Hg).

The experts estimate "a projected increase in patients with stage 1 hypertension requiring drug therapy of 1.9 percent", Carey said.

'The new guideline adopts a rigorous scientific approach, emphasizing the need for treatment and patient engagement'.

High blood pressure is expected to triple among men under age 45 and double among women under 45, according to the American Heart Association.

The systolic reading refers to the pressure when the heart contracts and sends blood through the arteries. "If you're only going to focus on events, that ignores the process when it's beginning".

"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 say readings above 130/80 mmHg are considered high. They found that the lower the blood pressure, the better the health outcomes.

Under the new threshold for initiating treatment, patients assessed to be at higher risk of cardiovascular problems will also be started on medication, he said.

Because the numbers are so important, experts are also issuing rules for measuring blood pressure.

The update by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association is based on a three-year review of nearly 1,000 studies.

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