For the first time in 14 years, the American Heart Association is tightening the guidelines for healthy blood pressure and the new standard means yours might be too high.
“So 130/80 begins high blood pressure as opposed to the previous documented 140/90,” said Dr. Aliya Browne a member of the New Jersey Board of Directors at the American Heart Association.
Anyone with a reading of 130/80 is now considered hypertensive. Eleven major medical groups looked at 900 research studies to create the new guideline. 120/ 80 is still considered normal, but numbers above that get broken into different categories; 120 to 130 over 80 is elevated and anything higher than that is now Stage 1 and Stage 2 hypertension. With this new cutoff, roughly 100 million more Americans, or nearly half of the adult population, will now have a high blood pressure diagnosis.
“We were trying to get the blood pressure down less than 140/90, but folks were still having heart attacks and strokes in the 130s range and the 80s range, so now we know if we just keep the blood pressure at 140/90 we’re not capturing all of those people, we’re not reducing their risks of dying from heart disease and from the ill effects of high blood pressure,” said Browne.
“The new information is that we need to take this even more seriously and we need to be a little more aggressive with treating the blood pressure,” said Dr. Marc Cohen, cardiologist and chairman of medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
Known as the silent killer, high blood pressure was the leading cause of death worldwide in 2010, according to the American Heart Association, because few people, if any, experience symptoms. Hypertension leads to a number of conditions and kills millions.
“Stroke, stroke, stroke, renal failure and heart attack, do you want to choose among those? And heart failure which is becoming the biggest issue,” said Cohen.
The new guidelines are expected to triple the number of younger men considered hypertensive and double the number for women.
Cohen says not everyone will need medication. Reducing sodium intake and processed foods and increasing exercise are the best way to prevent it.
The exact cause of hypertension isn’t known, but factors like smoking, stress, genetics and being overweight play a big role.
The new guidelines are expected to save lives and let people know if they’re at risk.