Nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure under the new guidelines issued Monday by heart organizations and the medical community. The threshold for high blood pressure has been lowered to 130/80 mm/HG from the previous 140/90.
Medical experts hope this new, lower level will prompt doctors to suggest earlier intervention for their patients with lifestyle changes or medication.
This new number accounts for nearly 46 percent, or more than 103 million Americans having high blood pressure, Reuters reported. Under the previous guidelines, established in 2003, an estimated 72 million had high blood pressure.
“I think this will encourage both patients to adhere to recommendations but also clinicians to be more vigorous in their attempts to prescribe lifestyle changes,” Dr. Pamela Morris, chair of the American College of Cardiology committee on prevention of cardiovascular disease, told Reuters.
The new guidelines are based on the latest results by the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial, which evaluated the best ways to treat blood pressure in adults with hypertension, who are 50 years or older and are at high risk for heart disease.
The study was sponsored in part by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and included over 9,300 participants in more than 100 medical centers throughout the U.S.
The guidelines were formulated by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.
Blood pressure is the force of the blood flowing through the body, with the top number representing the pressure when the heart beats and the bottom number representing the pressure when the heart rests.
Having high blood pressure increases the risk for heart attack or stroke, among other diseases including diabetes and kidney disease.
Lifestyle changes such as eating a balanced diet, reducing sodium intake, limiting alcohol, regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight can all lower blood pressure. For other factors that can’t be controlled, there are a number of medications that treat different symptoms of high blood pressure.
“This is a big deal, and it’s about time,” Dr. Allen Jeremias, director of interventional cardiology research and associate director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory at St. Francis Hospital, The Heart Center in Roslyn, told Newsday. “These guidelines were in the making for quite a while.”