The American Heart Association has released new guidelines for the treatment of hypertension with nearly half of adults considered to have elevated or high blood pressure. As the first major update since 2003, the bar for what is considered high blood pressure just got lowered. The total number of adults with hypertension is expected to rise to 103 million from 72 million as established by the previous standard. The change in blood pressure numbers is outlined in the American Heart Association 2017 Hypertension Practice Guidelines,* an extensive report by healthcare experts with no ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

AHA New Blood Pressure Categories

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 13 million men and women are walking around with undiagnosed high blood pressure. In addition to tightening the definition of high blood pressure, the new AHA guidelines redefine blood pressure categories as:

  • Normal Blood Pressure (still 120 over less than 80)
  • Elevated Blood Pressure (120 to 129 over less than 80)
  • Stage 1 Hypertension (130 to 139 over 80 to 89)
  • Stage 2 Hypertension (140 or higher over 90 or higher  )
  • Hypertensive Crisis (above 180 over 120 or higher)

NOTE: The old category of pre-hypertension (120 to 139 over 80 to 89) has been eliminated under the new guidelines.

A panel of twenty-one scientists, who reviewed more than 900 studies, believes the impact of the new AHA guidelines will be greatest among younger and middle age adults, with prevalence of high blood pressure expected to triple among men under 45 and double among women under 45.

Hypertension is the “Silent Killer” 

High blood pressure increases the risk of cardiac problems and strokes, and is sometimes called “the silent killer” because so many adults live with high blood pressure and do not know it. Since it is impossible to treat the disease when you are not sick and unaware that you are living with a dangerous medical condition, the AHA is encouraging everyone to get an annual checkup and discuss treatment options with your family care provider. Only a small increase is expected in the number of adults that will require antihypertensive medication. Patients with Elevated or Stage 1 hypertension should initially be treated with lifestyle modifications that include a diet that is high in fruit, vegetables and fiber and low in saturated fat.

*The 2017 American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Management of High Blood Pressure was released November 13, 2017 at the American Heart

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