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Heart and Vascular

Change in Guidelines Means Nearly Half of Americans Now Have High Blood Pressure

Mercy Health | Nov 15 2017
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Under new blood pressure guidelines 46% of U.S. adults now have high blood pressure, up from 32%

High blood pressure has often been called the silent killer, and because of new blood pressure guidelines, it’s now affecting an additional 30 million Americans.

The reading for high blood pressure has changed from 140/90 to 130/80. The change comes from the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and nine other groups who worked together to update the guidelines for the first time in 14 years.

High blood pressure is the leading cause of death worldwide, and the second-leading cause of preventable death in the United States, after smoking.

Those with high blood pressure over 130/80 but under 140/90 will now be diagnosed with stage one hypertension. Doctors will suggest they lose weight, exercise, eat healthier and reduce stress. With additional risk factors such as a previous stroke, heart attack or diabetes, patients may be asked to take medication as well.

Meanwhile, those with a blood pressure over 140/90 will be asked to make lifestyle changes and take two blood-pressure lowering medications. Those already taking medication may require an increase in dosage.

Why were the high blood pressure guidelines updated?

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute sponsored a study with more than 9,000 people. The study showed that bringing blood pressure below 120 could reduce risk of heart attack and stroke. Because follow-up studies confirmed the lower blood pressure had a positive impact for all ages, the new normal is now defined as 120/80.

As we age, blood pressure tends to rise and damage blood vessels. This increases risk for heart attack, stroke and kidney damage, among other health problems. By the time blood pressure reaches 130/80, those health risks have already doubled. Dr. David Goff, the director of cardiovascular sciences at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, said the new guidelines “have the potential of improving the health of millions.”

Who do the new blood pressure guidelines affect?

Experts who wrote the report expect the new guidelines to affect a large number of adults younger than 45 years old. In fact, the number of younger men with high blood pressure is expected to triple. The number of young women impacted is expected to double.

Previously, 32% of Americans had high blood pressure. Now that number is up to 46%. This reflects an increase from 72.2 million to 103.3 million people.

A broad spectrum of factors impacts high blood pressure. Factors include genetics, age, diet, exercise, stress and other conditions. High blood pressure is more common in men than women, and is especially prevalent among African-Americans.

What do the new blood pressure guidelines mean for me?

In addition to the new blood pressure guidelines, doctors were given best practices for measuring blood pressure. These include letting patients rest five minutes before measuring blood pressure and averaging two readings over two visits. Patients will also be encouraged to take regular blood pressure readings at home.

After blood pressure has been determined, patients will be recommended treatment as outlined above.

If you think you’re impacted by the change in guidelines and want to discuss treatment with a doctor, reach out to your primary care physician right away. If you need a primary care doctor, call 513-952-5000 or visit mercy.com to find a caregiver near you today.

You can also learn more about how to can prevent and control high blood pressure here.


Mercy Health


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