High blood pressure re-defined, 130/80 now considered high

Ray Weaver
November 15, 2017

Eleven medical groups including the American Heart Association are redefining the danger zone: the bar for systolic blood pressure is lowered from 140 points to 130.

Almost half of all Americans have high blood pressure according to new guidelines, with cardiologists saying Tuesday it offers an opportunity to promote better health.

The challenge with the previous guideline is a patient with a reading of 135 over 85 may not have been treated for high blood pressure, Gandhi said. Previously, one in three (32 per cent) had the condition, which is the second leading cause of preventable heart disease and stroke, after cigarette smoking. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80.

Rather than 1 in 3 US adults having high blood pressure with the previous definition, the new guidelines will result in almost half of the USA adult population having the condition.

The normal limit for blood pressure is considered 120 for systolic, or how much pressure the blood places on the artery walls when the heart beats, and 80 for diastolic, which is measured between beats.

Identifying socioeconomic status and psychosocial stress as risk factors for high blood pressure that should be considered in a patient's plan of care. Then a person's reading becomes the average of those numbers and reduces the risk of "white coat hypertension" - blood pressure readings that are improperly elevated because a patient in a doctor's office is nervous.

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.

Damage to blood vessels is already beginning once blood pressure reaches 130/80, said the guidelines, which were based in part on a major United States government-funded study of over 9,000 people nationwide.

The new guidelines eliminate the prehypertension category.

"A lot more people are going to be diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure), but the result will be fewer cardiovascular events down the road", Gandhi said. But only a small percentage of those patients will be prescribed anti-hypertensive medication, the association said.

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