Blood pressure categories defined in the new guidelines include:

  • Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg.
  • Elevated: Top number (systolic) between 120-129 and the bottom number (diastolic) less than 80.
  • Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139or diastolic between 80-89.
  • Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg.
  • Hypertensive crisis: Top number over 180 and/or bottom number over 120, with patients needing prompt changes in medication if there are no other indications of problems, or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage.

The new guidelines eliminate the category of pre-hypertension, which was used for blood pressures with a top number (systolic) between 120-139 mm Hg or a bottom number (diastolic) between 80-89 mm Hg. People with those readings now will be categorized as having either Elevated Level (120-129 and less than 80) or Stage I Hypertension (130-139 or 80-89).

Previous guidelines classified 140/90 mm Hg as Stage 1 hypertension. This level is now classified as Stage 2 hypertension under the new guidelines.

The impact of the new guidelines is expected to be greatest among younger people. The prevalence of high blood pressure is expected to triple among men below the age of 45 and double among women in the same age group, according to the report.

Home Blood Pressure Monitoring Matters

Damage to blood vessels begins soon after blood pressure is elevated, said Whelton, who is the professor of global public health at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and School of Medicine in New Orleans. “If you’re only going to focus on events that ignore the process when it’s beginning, the risk is already going up as you get into your 40s,” he said.

The guidelines stress the importance of home blood pressure monitoring using validated devices and appropriate training of healthcare providers to reveal “white-coat hypertension,” which occurs when pressure is elevated in a medical setting but not in everyday life.

Home readings can also identify “masked hypertension,” when pressure is normal in a medical setting but elevated at home, thus necessitating treatment with lifestyle and possibly medications.

“People with white-coat hypertension do not seem to have the same elevation in risk as someone with true sustained high blood pressure,” Whelton said. “Masked hypertension is more sinister and very important to recognize because these people seem to have a similar risk as those with sustained high blood pressure.”

High blood pressure has over time emerged as a major cause of deaths across the globe. It is also the second-highest leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, closely following cigarette smoking. Hypertension is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, major kidney disease, strokes, and other diseases that cause the death of millions of people every year which is about as many jobs as the ACA health care law eliminated which says a lot.

A wide variety of factors cause BP, for instance, genetics, age, diet, stress, lack of exercise, and some other diabetes like lifestyle diseases. Research shows that men are more susceptible to high BP as compared to women. Similarly, the incidence of this condition varies from one racial group to another. Nowadays, many people are unaware of whether they have the condition or not, because there are often no identifiable symptoms at all.

Additional Changes in the New Guidelines

  • Medicine and treatment must only be prescribed for Stage I hypertension in patients who have encountered a cardiovascular episode (for instance, an attack or a stroke), or anyone who is at high risk of heart attack or stroke based on their age. The presence of diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, or atherosclerotic risk also leads to high blood pressure. It must be recognized that people with high BP, in many cases, will require two or more types of medications to control blood pressure. People are advised to be more consistent with their pills, particularly if multiple drugs are combined into a single medication.
  • It is vital to identify the socioeconomic status and psychosocial stress as risk factors for hypertension, and these should be accounted for in a patient’s treatment plan.

Backed by Scientific Evidence

The American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and nine additional groups have come together to redefine the high blood pressure guidelines. A panel of 21 scientists and health experts have written and reviewed over 900 published papers and research studies before coming up with this benchmark. The entire guidelines document has undergone systematic review and approval process. Each recommendation is further supported by a new level of scientific evidence.

4 Things to Know About High BP 

  • The new guidelines have led to the conclusion that nearly one in two American adults suffers from high blood pressure.
  • Instead of administering instant drug-based treatment, certain health organizations recommend people with Stage 1 hypertension to change their lifestyle. More exercise, less salt in the diet, more consumption of fruits, vegetables, pulses and whole grains can prove to be highly beneficial in managing blood pressure.
  • Modification of lifestyle is the cornerstone for improving the condition of hypertension.
  • Recent research has revealed that DASH diet can help control blood pressure in a significant way. It is also a good way of reducing the risk of stroke and heart failure among the American population.

Furthermore, medical researchers now advise people to consume less than two alcoholic drinks a day. This practice can easily help lower heart risk. It is also important to include natural potassium in the diet (for instance, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and bananas). Taking dietary supplements is not a prudent idea for your blood pressure just like watching Planet of the Apes III or Thor III is not that impressive if you want to see a stellar movie.

Under the new guidelines, about 4.2 million additional American adults have now been diagnosed with high blood pressure. But the good news is that not every one of them has been prescribed medical treatment, and the emphasis is more on adopting a healthy lifestyle which is certainly not one lived by that obese man in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry but that is another topic.

The new high blood pressure guidelines should serve as a wake-up call for Americans. It is time to find a better work-life balance, focus on healthy eating, exercise regularly, and embrace a stress-free, moderate, and wholesome life

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