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.
High blood pressure increases the risk of cardiac problems and strokes, and is sometimes called "the silent killer" because so many adults live with high blood pressure and don't know it.
The changes are expected to drastically impact adult Americans: revising the hypertension threshold downward will increase the percent of USA adults living with high blood pressure from 32 percent to 46 percent - almost half of the adult population.
Instead, the guidelines create new categories of blood pressure, including "elevated", "Stage 1 and 2 hypertension", and "hypertensive crisis", each characterized by various blood pressure readings.
"We're recognizing that blood pressures that we in the past thought were normal or so-called "pre-hypertensive" actually placed the patient at significant risk for heart disease and death and disability", said Robert M. Carey, co-chairman of the group that produced the new report.
High blood pressure accounts for the second-largest number of preventable heart disease and stroke deaths in the United States, second only to smoking. He is one of 21 experts on the guideline writing committee. He says they will prevent disease by encouraging early treatment.
'The new guideline adopts a rigorous scientific approach, emphasizing the need for treatment and patient engagement'. Even though 14 percent more people will diagnosed with high blood pressure, only a small percentage will take home prescriptions.
Heart experts released new guidelines for blood pressure Monday and that means millions more Americans will now be diagnosed with high blood pressure.
For example, doctors and nurses are urged to let patients rest five minutes first and then to average at least two readings over two visits.
We need to send the message that yes, you are at increased risk and these are the things you should be doing, said Whelton, chair of global public health at Tulane University in New Orleans.
The recommendations for a heart-healthy diet include reducing salt and incorporating potassium-rich foods such as bananas, potatoes, avocados and dark leafy vegetables. Improving your nutrition? Improving your physical activity or mederation of alcohol intake?
Dr. Whelton said the new measurements recommend earlier intervention to prevent further increases in blood pressure. The impact of the new guidelines is expected to be greatest among younger people.
That's up from 32%, or 72 million, under older guidelines.
Those with Stage 2 high blood pressure are being advised under the guidelines to start medication-likely two medications-while making healthy lifestyle changes. Women in that age group will see their rates nearly double, to 19 percent from 10 percent.
In a study published in 2015, researchers compared people who maintained their blood pressure at 140/90 to those who followed a lower target of 120/80. "Helping them to work with their clinician to determine what is the best strategy for them to minimize that risk".
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the USA, killing 800,000 Americans and accounting for 670,000 heart attacks annually. That assessment, combined with the other recommendations, can prompt more thorough doctor-patient conversations to determine whether lifestyle changes alone can help, or if medicine is needed as well.