Nearly half of all adult Americans will be considered to have high blood pressure under new guidelines by the nation’s top heart health organizations. The new guidelines lower the diagnostic threshold for stage 1 high blood pressure to 130/80, down from the previous level of 140/90, according to a joint statement from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. Further, the guidelines also call for more aggressive treatment of high blood pressure, asking doctors and patients to set 130/80 as the new goal of therapy.
High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. But the guidelines also press for more judicious treatment of high blood pressure — sometimes called hypertension — and an emphasis on lifestyle
risk factors. Prescriptions for blood pressure drugs are not expected to leap under the guidelines, experts said. The two heart organizations announced the new guidelines at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting, in Anaheim, Calif. The guidelines were last revised in 2003.
The change means that 103 million Americans will be considered to have high blood pressure, or about 46 percent of the adult population, said Dr. Paul Whelton. He is chair of the 2017 Hypertension Practice Guidelines and a professor of Global Public Health at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans. That’s a 14 percent increase from the previous guidelines, under which 72.2 million Americans (32 percent of adults) were considered to have high blood pressure. The latest medical evidence has proven that people with blood pressure in the 130-139 range carry a doubled risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney failure, compared to those with lower blood pressure, said Dr. Joaquin Cigarroa, a member of the clinical guidelines task force.
Previously, those people were considered to have prehypertension, but not actual high blood pressure. “By incorporating the latest science, we recognize the risk is doubled,” said Cigarroa, chief of cardiology and clinical chief of the Knight Cardiovascular Institute at Oregon Health & Science University, in Portland. “This now allows 14 percent of our population to understand that’s a call to action. We have to empower them with the tools to make a difference.”