New US standard redefines high blood pressure

A patient getting blood pressure checked

Under the new guidelines, the AHA now defines high blood pressure as 130/80, down from the previous 140/90.

130/80 is the new high - a change from the old definition of 140/90.

"I think the goal of the new guidelines is to get blood pressure on the radar for those at-risk patients, to make the diagnosis, to get them to do some lifestyle changes".

Tighter blood pressure guidelines from US heart organizations mean millions more people need to make lifestyle changes, or start taking medication, in order to avoid cardiovascular problems.

The challenge with the previous guideline is a patient with a reading of 135 over 85 may not have been treated for high blood pressure, Gandhi said.

"There are millions of people that fall into this category that's now called Stage One Hypertension who previously we were calling normal blood pressures", Cardiology Director for the Heart and Vascular Institute at the Hartford Healthcare Corporation at MidState Medical Center Dr. Bill Farrell said.

Healthy lifestyle changes include losing weight, exercising more, eating healthier, not smoking, avoiding alcohol and salt, and reducing stress.

High blood pressure is caused when the force of blood pushing against vessel walls is too high. "The days are pretty much over when doctors could walk into the office and tell people what to do, write a prescription and expect them to comply", he said on Twitter Tuesday.

Damage to blood vessels is already beginning once blood pressure reaches 130/80, said the guidelines, which were based in part on a major USA government-funded study of over 9,000 people nationwide.

"A lot more people are going to be diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure), but the result will be fewer cardiovascular events down the road", Gandhi said.

WECT's Ben Smart is interviewing two cardiologists today to understand what these new heart health guidelines mean for you. Before, both these ranges were classified as "prehypertension", and 140-159/90-99 was "stage 1 hypertension".

He added: "It is important, however, to realise that the change in the definition does not give course to increased prescriptions of medications".

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