(RxWiki News) Because of new American Heart Association (AHA) definitions, many more American adults could be diagnosed with high blood pressure.
The new AHA guidelines lower the target blood pressure range and stress the importance of earlier blood pressure control to prevent major heart health problems like stroke and heart attack.
People with blood pressure readings equal to or greater than 130 over 80 are now classified as having hypertension (high blood pressure), according to the new AHA definitions. Previously, high blood pressure was defined as 140 over 90.
Lowering the blood pressure target by 10 points raises the number of US adults who could be diagnosed with high blood pressure to 46 percent. That's compared to 32 percent of adults under the previous guidelines.
A blood pressure below 120 over 80 will continue to be considered normal. However, levels between 121 and 129 are now defined as “elevated.” The guidelines do not suggest a significant spike in people who will need to be treated with medication for high blood pressure. Instead, the main goal is to alert health care providers about the need to focus on patient lifestyle changes, according to the AHA.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, which are two leading causes of death around the world. High blood pressure adds pressure to blood vessels and damages the heart and circulatory system. The condition is typically called a “silent killer” because the damage is done slowly without many noticeable symptoms.
Common blood pressure control tips include heart-healthy eating (reduction of salt and eating more foods rich in potassium), increasing physical activity, quitting smoking and cutting back on alcohol.
“We will save lives and money by preventing more strokes, cardiovascular events and kidney failure,” said guideline author Dr. Kenneth Jamerson, of the University of Michigan Health System, in a press release.
Talk to your health care provider about how to maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
The new guidelines were published in the journal Hypertension.
Information on funding sources and potential conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.