New Guidelines Mean Millions More Americans Need to Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure patient

High blood pressure patient

Medical experts focusing on heart health released new guidelines Monday for high blood pressure, also called hypertension.

Almost half of all Americans have high blood pressure according to new guidelines, with cardiologists saying Tuesday it offers an opportunity to promote better health.

Potentially deadly high blood pressure can be brought under control with a wide array of medications, many sold as relatively low-cost generics.

The new guidelines will result in almost half of USA adults having high blood pressure, or hypertension - but, there will only be a small increase in those prescribed medication.

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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.

A large, government-sponsored study of hypertension patients aged 50 and older showed in 2015 that death from heart-related causes fell 43 percent and heart failure rates dropped 38 percent when their systolic blood pressure was lowered below 120 versus those taken to a target of under 140.

The AHA hopes that the new guidelines won't mean more people will use medication, so much as the hope more people will make the lifestyle changes necessary to address hypertension.

The higher a person's blood pressure, the higher their risk is of developing heart disease, which means they're more likely to suffer poor health and die early, according to the guideline authors. Anything above is now considered "elevated" or "Stage 1" or "Stage 2".

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The category of prehypertension, referring to those with systolic pressure of 120-139, no longer exists.

The proper technique must be used to measure blood pressure, and levels "should be based on an average of two to three readings on at least two different occasions", according to the new guidelines.

Medication is recommended for people with stage 1 hypertension only "if a patient has already had a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke, or is at high risk of heart attack or stroke based on age, the presence of diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease or calculation of atherosclerotic risk".

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