Half of US adults have high blood pressure in new guidelines

High blood pressure salt

"Hopefully, the new guidelines will give clinicians more confidence that it is appropriate to treat high-risk patients who may not meet the old definitions of high blood pressure", Ferdinand said.

Adults with blood pressure of 130/80 "already have double the risk of heart attack compared to someone in the normal range", said Dr. Paul Whelton, professor at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and School of Medicine in New Orleans and lead author of the new guidelines.

But the drugs have side effects and the new guidelines emphasize lifestyle changes including weight loss, diet and exercise as the first tool for combating hypertension.

This means almost half the US adult population is living with hypertension and at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

Under new health guidelines for hypertension, almost half of all adults in the United States suffer from high blood pressure and are at risk of major health problems.

Data from SPRINT, which was also used in the new meta-analyses that were done for the guidelines, supports the lower blood pressure goal of 130/80 mm Hg for adults, including adults aged 65 years and older in institutionalized ambulatory, community-living settings, according to MacLaughlin.

The new AHA guidelines for diagnosing hypertension are listed below.

The American Heart Association and American College are now defining a top reading of 130 or more or a bottom reading of 80 or more as high blood pressure. "Normal hasn't changed. We are still saying that it is great and it is normal to have a systolic blood pressure reading below 120 and a diastolic reading under 80", Whelton said.

In 2010, high blood pressure was the leading cause of death worldwide and the second-leading cause of preventable death in the United States, after cigarette smoking. Writing down these readings at home can help tell the difference between people with truly abnormal blood pressure and those with "white-coat syndrome" - with high blood pressure only under stress like at the doctor's office. This is called diastolic pressure.

The reason lower blood pressure can raise the risk of dizziness and kidney problems is simply that the brain and kidneys require a certain amount of pressure to "drive" their function, pushing blood through the organs, said Edmundowicz, who also is medical director of the Temple Heart and Vascular Institute. Blood pressure is affected by a wide variety of factors including genetics, age, diet, exercise, stress and other diseases such as diabetes.

The change reclassifies 14 percent of U.S. adults, who were once deemed "high normal" and now have a more critical diagnosis.

While people may be confused by the change, the heart experts said three years of reviewing the research showed that much fewer people die if high blood pressure is treated earlier.

While the new guidelines significantly increase the number of Americans with a diagnosis of hypertension, they do not suggest a proportionate increase in treating with medication.

Doctors say only two percent of the people newly-added to the hypertension category will need medication. "It doesn't mean you need medication, but it's a yellow light that you need to be lowering your blood pressure, mainly with non-drug approaches". It's known as a "silent killer" because often there are no symptoms.

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