New blood pressure range means half of Americans have hypertension

High blood pressure patient

Americans with blood pressure of 130/80 or higher should be treated, down from the previous trigger of 140/90, according to new guidelines announced on Monday by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

As of Monday, 30 million more Americans now suffer from high blood pressure.

Gandhi recommends that people who are at risk of high blood pressure buy a quality blood pressure cuff that wraps around their arms and to become comfortable taking their own blood pressure readings from time to time and reporting them to their doctor.

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The new standard means almost half (46 per cent) of the USA population will be defined as having high blood pressure.

"We want to be straight with people - if you already have a doubling of risk, you need to know about it".

Dr Satjit Bhusri, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in NY, said he agrees with the change "because it allows for early lifestyle changes to be addressed".

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Normal blood pressure is still below 120/80, but now 120-129/80 is considered an "elevated blood pressure", and 130-139/80-89 is "stage 1 hypertension".

WECT's Ben Smart is interviewing two cardiologists today to understand what these new heart health guidelines mean for you.

The normal limit for blood pressure is considered 120 for systolic, or how much pressure the blood places on the artery walls when the heart beats, and 80 for diastolic, which is measured between beats.

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High blood pressure is caused when the force of blood pushing against vessel walls is too high. But only a small percentage of those patients will be prescribed anti-hypertensive medication, the association said. Before, both these ranges were classified as "prehypertension", and 140-159/90-99 was "stage 1 hypertension". It measures the amount of pressure going through your heart when it's pumping. "And yet it carries with it a really high risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney damage, so one of the most important things that I can do as the doctor is to treat high blood pressure and to prevent those things in my patients". "Rather, it brings to light the need to make lifestyle changes".

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