Almost half of Americans have high blood pressure, new guidelines say

High blood pressure patient

America's leading heart experts on Monday issued new guidelines for high blood pressure that mean tens of millions more Americans will meet the criteria for the condition, and will need to change their lifestyles or take medicines to treat it.

Previously, 140/90 or more was considered high blood pressure, but now it's 130/80.

"I think the goal of the new guidelines is to get blood pressure on the radar for those at-risk patients, to make the diagnosis, to get them to do some lifestyle changes".

Under the new guidelines, 14% of more people will be diagnosed with high blood pressure, making almost half of American adults at risk for major health problems.

Dr. Shearer says high blood pressure is known as the "silent killer" because there are often no symptoms.

But the drugs have side effects and the new guidelines emphasize lifestyle changes including weight loss, diet and exercise as the first tool for combating hypertension.

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

But patients in the 120 systolic blood pressure group had a higher rate of kidney injury or failure, as well as fainting.

Damage to blood vessels is already beginning once blood pressure reaches 130/80, said the guidelines, which were based in part on a major United States government-funded study of over 9,000 people nationwide. Anything above is now considered "elevated" or "Stage 1" or "Stage 2". "And for those patients that are at highest risk, those that have had a cardiovascular event in the past, stroke or heart attack, or have diabetes, those are the kind of people we're going to be adding medication for it to bring their blood pressures down", Farrell said.

The new guidelines eliminate the prehypertension category.

The AHA says the new guidelines are created to help people address the potentially deadly condition much earlier. The association recommends that those with stage 1 hypertension will only be prescribed medication if they have a heart attack or stroke.

The new guidelines also emphasize the importance of accurate blood pressure measurements, using an average of different readings at different times.

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