In this June 6, 2013, a patient has her blood pressure checked by a registered nurse in Plainfield, Vt. New medical guidelines announced Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, lower the threshold for high blood pressure, adding 30 million Americans to those who have the condition.
New guidelines lower the threshold for high blood pressure, adding 30 million Americans to those who have the condition, which now plagues nearly half of U.S. adults.
High pressure, which for decades has been a top reading of at least 140 or a bottom one of 90, drops to 130 over 80 in advice announced Monday by a dozen medical groups.
The change means an additional 14 percent of U.S. adults have the problem, but only 2 percent of these newly added people need medication right away; the rest should try healthier lifestyles, which get much stronger emphasis in the new advice. Poor diets, lack of exercise and other bad habits cause 90 percent of high blood pressure.
But the risk for heart disease, stroke and other problems drops as blood pressure improves, and the new advice "is more honest" about how many people have a problem, he said.
Currently, only half of Americans with high blood pressure have it under control.
The upper threshold for high blood pressure has been 140 since 1993, but a major study two years ago found heart risks were much lower in people who aimed for 120. Canada and Australia lowered their cutoff to that; Europe is still at 140 but is due to revise its guidance next year.
The guidelines were announced Monday at an American Heart Association conference in Anaheim.
WHAT THE CHANGES MEAN
The guidelines set new categories and get rid of "prehypertension":
—Normal: Under 120 over 80
—Elevated: Top number 120-129 and bottom less than 80
—Stage 1: Top of 130-139 or bottom of 80-89
—Stage 2: Top at least 140 or bottom at least 90
That means 46 percent of U.S. adults have high pressure (stages 1 or 2) versus 32 percent under the old levels.