New US standard redefines high blood pressure

Phillip Cunningham
November 15, 2017

The new AHA standards means almost half of Americans may now have high blood pressure.

The American Heart Association released a major update regarding new blood pressure guidelines and under the changes, more Americans are considered to have high blood pressure.

Only prescribing medication for Stage I hypertension if a patient has already had a cardiovascular event, is at high risk of heart attack or stroke based on age, the presence of diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease or calculation of atherosclerotic risk.

In terms of lives, the change translates to a 14% increases in the number of adults classified with high blood pressure.

"High blood pressure is now defined as readings of 130 mm Hg and higher for the systolic blood pressure measurement, or readings of 80 and higher for the diastolic measurement", said the guidelines.

Dr. Aznaurov said the only way people in this range would have to start medication is if they have another underlying cardiac disease. "It doesn't mean you need medication, but it's a yellow light that you need to be lowering your blood pressure, mainly with non-drug approaches".


The changes were announced at the American Heart Association's 2017 Scientific Sessions conference in Anaheim, California.

Under the new guidelines published Monday, 46 percent of Americans now have hypertension compared to 32 percent under the former definition.

High blood pressure is sometimes called a silent killer because there are no symptoms.

Dr. Calvin says that can be addressed with lifestyle changes like eating more fruits and veggies, increasing exercise, and minimizing alcohol consumption.

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. The association recommends that those with stage 1 hypertension will only be prescribed medication if they have a heart attack or stroke.

High blood pressure is caused when the force of blood pushing against vessel walls is too high. "According to what the guidelines say go a head and use what we call lifestyle modification", said Dr. Gordon.

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