According to a release from the AHA, patients with a blood pressure reading of 130/80 should now be considered to have hypertension, or abnormally high blood pressure.
The guidelines recommend lifestyle changes, eating a healthy, low-sodium diet, rich in potassium - bananas, potatoes, avocados, leafy green vegetables - weight loss, exercise, and cutting out alcohol and tobacco.
The new definition will increase the rate of Americans with high blood pressure from about 33 percent to nearly 50 percent, according to Keith Ferdinand, a cardiovascular doctor and guidelines reviewer for the report in which the findings were published.
The new standard means that almost half (46 percent) of the U.S. population will be defined as having high blood pressure.
'The new guideline adopts a rigorous scientific approach, emphasizing the need for treatment and patient engagement'.
According to the AHA, the new guidelines were developed by 21 science and health experts who reviewed more than 900 published studies.
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The new guidelines incorporate data from the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), which was a large, randomized controlled trial created to assess the impact of more aggressive versus standard blood pressure goals on hard cardiovascular outcomes.
Hypertension now means a reading of at least 130 for systolic blood pressure - the higher of those two numbers you hear at the doctor's office - down from the old cutoff of 140. And at 130, different stages of high blood pressure begin.
Ferdinand said he hopes the new guidelines will push clinicians to treat patients earlier on, which could reduce the number of cardiac-related deaths, specifically heart attack and stokes. Diastolic pressure is measured when the heart relaxes between beats.
Doctors now recognize that complications "can occur at those lower numbers", said the first update to comprehensive USA guidelines on blood pressure detection and treatment since 2003. Damage to the inside of arteries and other blood vessels can grow over time, and rates of hypertension increase with age.
The change reclassifies 14 percent of United States adults, who were once deemed "high normal" and now have a more critical diagnosis. The prevalence of high blood pressure is expected to triple among men under age 45 and double among women under 45. The four main classes of drugs for blood pressure have generic versions and can be as cheap as a few dollars a month.
The new goal strikes "an appropriate balance between efficacy... and safety", for those who will be asked to take more medications that can have side effects such as dizziness and falling, said Bob Carey, vice-chair of the guideline committee and a professor of medicine and dean emeritus at the University of Virginia Health System School of Medicine.
"Yes, we will label more people hypertensive and give more medication, but we will save lives and money by preventing more strokes, cardiovascular events and kidney failure", he said, in a statement. It's known as a "silent killer" because often there are no symptoms.
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