New guidelines for high blood pressure means you could be more at risk

As of today you may have high blood pressure.

The guidelines have changed opening the door for more people to be diagnosed with the condition.

Currently one-third of Americans are considered to have high blood pressure.

By lowering the number that is considered too high, doctors are expanding the characterization so now nearly half of U.S. adults have hypertension.

For the first time in more than a decade the American Heart association is getting tougher on high blood pressure issuing new comprehensive guildlines.

  • Systolic pressure – or the force on arteries during a heartbeat - should not exceed 120.
  • Diastolic pressure – between heartbeats - should be below 80.

“In young healthy people with flexible blood vessels, elastic and compliant, the numbers tend to be low or normal,” said Dr Mark Lampert, A NorthShore University Healthsystem Cardiologist. “As someone ages, the blood vessels become stiffer and those problems can evolve not just in the larger arteries but the smaller arteries feeding the brain, the heart the kidneys.”

And for those considered high, they are urged to begin interventions like reducing salt intake and possibly adding medication to reduce blood pressure and in turn lower the risk for heart attack, stroke and heart failure.

“Prevention doesn’t have to mean giving you medicine,” Dr Lampert says. “One of the most important lifestyle modifications would be reduction of weight, which as you know obesity is an epidemic in this country, even losing 10 pounds can make a difference, 10-percent is the equivalent of blood pressure pills. The average person is on 2-2 ½ blood pressure pills to control.”

Because the numbers are so important, experts are also issuing rules for measuring blood pressure. The accurate number should actually be a combination of three separate readings at different times.

Normal is less than 120 over 80.

If the top number is between 120-129, pressure is considered elevated. Even if the bottom number remains at 80.

Stage 1 Hypertension is diagnosed when blood pressure is between 130-139/80-89

And Stage 2 occurs at levels of 140 over 90.

The impact of the new guidelines is expected to be greatest among younger people. The prevalence of high blood pressure will likely triple among men younger than 45, and double among women younger than 45.