New guidelines lower threshold for hypertension

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The government agency did not help write or officially endorse the guidelines - a change from previous versions - but it did back key research, including the 2015 study showing the value of lower blood pressure targets.

The guidelines recommend lifestyle changes, eating a healthy, low-sodium diet, rich in potassium - bananas, potatoes, avocados, leafy green vegetables - weight loss, exercise, and cutting out alcohol and tobacco. By the AHA's old standards, 32 percent of American adults suffered from high blood pressure.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and Ferdinand said blood pressure is one of the most important risk factors of heart disease.

Under new health guidelines for hypertension, almost half of all adults in the United States suffer from high blood pressure and are at risk of major health problems.

"We're recognizing that blood pressures that we in the past thought were normal or so-called "pre-hypertensive" actually placed the patient at significant risk for heart disease and death and disability", said Robert M. Carey, co-chairman of the group that produced the new report.

The new guidelines will be influential in clinical practice, with most health care providers expected to follow the research-based recommendations from leading voices in cardiovascular medicine.

And at 130 begin different stages of high blood pressure and an increasing risk of heart attack and stroke.

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The new guidelines incorporate data from the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), which was a large, randomized controlled trial created to assess the impact of more aggressive versus standard blood pressure goals on hard cardiovascular outcomes.

The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology are defining a top reading of 130 or more or a bottom reading of 80 or more as high blood pressure.

"It's normal to have a systolic blood pressure of 120 and a diastolic below 80, and that's what we should all be aiming to have", Whelton said. Hypertension, where the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls is elevated, is considered the second-largest cause of preventable heart disease after smoking.

The guidelines "have the potential of improving the health of millions", and are supported by solid science, said David Goff, director of cardiovascular sciences at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. It will also disproportionately affect younger people by tripling the number of men under 45 and doubling the number of women under 45 with the diagnosis.

Even though 14 percent more people will be diagnosed with high blood pressure, only a small portion will take home prescriptions. But there will only be a small increase in the number of USA adults who will require medication, the authors of the guidelines said. The four main classes of drugs for blood pressure have generic versions and can be as cheap as a few dollars a month.

"People with white-coat hypertension do not seem to have the same elevation in risk as someone with true sustained high blood pressure", Whelton said. "There is a reason it's known as the silent killer".