This News Could Raise Your Blood Pressure

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For the first time in 14 years, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology guidelines for blood pressure have changed. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is now defined as 130 mm Hg and above for systolic blood pressure (the top number in blood pressure measurement) or 80 and above for diastolic blood pressure (the bottom measurement).

The previous definition of hypertension was 140/90 mm Hg and higher. This change reflects the risk of complications, including heart attack and stroke, that can occur with lower blood pressure measurements. The new guidelines – the first since 2003 – also eliminate the category of prehypertension.

With these changes, about 14 percent more people in the United States could be diagnosed with high blood pressure. Ideally, these people will be counseled by their physicians about lifestyle changes to prevent complications and reduce heart attack and stroke risk. The new guidelines are not expected to cause a significant increase in the number of people prescribed blood pressure medication.

Blood pressure categories in the new guidelines include:

  • Normal BP: less than 120/80 mm Hg
  • Elevated BP: Systolic BP between 120-129 and diastolic BP less than 80
  • Stage 1 hypertension: Systolic BP between 130-139 or diastolic BP between 80-89
  • Stage 2 hypertension: Systolic BP at least 140 or diastolic BP at least 90 mm Hg
  • Hypertensive crisis: Systolic BP over 180 and/or diastolic BP over 120. These patients require prompt treatment if there are no other indications of a problem, or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage.

Sourced from: American Heart Association