New blood pressure guidelines called 'first step' in better management for many

It could be time to get your blood pressure checked.   Lucy Nicholson  Reuters

It could be time to get your blood pressure checked. Lucy Nicholson Reuters

The American Heart Association recently adjusted what it considers high blood pressure.

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"When I do public blood pressure checks I am always amazed how many people are walking around with very high blood pressure and don't think it's a big deal".

The new guidelines are expected to result in the treatment of millions more patients for hypertension, although not necessarily through medication, and it is hoped the guidelines will raise awareness in under treated populations including Hispanic Americans and less effectively treated African Americans.

The American Heart Association says this will means about 14% more people will be diagnosed with hypertension, but note that only a fractional increase in those who will be prescribed medication.

"It will be beneficial for patients to be proactive in their own control of risk factors long term because eighty percent of the US population will have a prevalence of hypertension sometime in their life", said Anemola Anghel, an Interventional Cardiologist at St. Luke's in Duluth.

Doctors now recognize that complications "can occur at those lower numbers", said the first update to comprehensive U.S. guidelines on blood pressure detection and treatment since 2003. Now, according to the new guidelines, high blood pressure is defined as 130/80 or higher, CNN reports.

Henault's words were echoed by Baystate Health cardiologist Heba Wassif who said she excited, but not surprised by the guidelines, especially in the wake of a 2015 government- funded study on blood pressure and disease risk. Diastolic pressure measures the blood's pressure against the artery walls when the heart rests in between heartbeats.

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.

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Blood pressure tests calculate the ease with which blood flows through the arteries from the heart to the rest of the body. Previously, this was defined as high blood pressure at 140/90.

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

Barr recommends patients to regularly monitor their blood pressure at home before visiting their doctor, this helps ensure an accurate reading.

A resting blood pressure of 130 over 80 is now considered too high before, patients with the same reading were classified as pre-hypertension and did not require medical treatment.

Adults with blood pressure of 130/80 "already have double the risk of heart attack compared to someone in the normal range", said Paul Whelton, professor at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and School of Medicine in New Orleans and lead author of the new guidelines. They said the new lower numbers should make more people concerned.

Mercy's Henault added, "Everyone should know what their blood pressure is".

Doctors are also allowed to medically treat more aggressively.

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