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New rules say 46 percent of Americans have hypertension

Don’t just get your BP taken make sure it’s taken the right way

Millions of Americans are being told to look at their numbers after the American Heart Association (AHA), American College of Cardiology and nine other health professional organizations gave a major overhaul to blood pressure guidelines.

The new guidelines classify high blood pressure as 130/80 mm Hg rather than 140/90.

"We want to be straight with people - if you already have a doubling of risk, you need to know about it", said Dr. Paul K. Whelton, the lead author of the new guidelines.

High blood pressure is second only to smoking when it comes to preventable heart disease and stroke deaths. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80.

"The new definition results in only a small increase in the percentage of USA adults for whom antihypertensive medication is recommended in conjunction with lifestyle modification", according to the guidelines.

"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".

Blood pressure of 120 over 80 is still considered normal, with any systolic pressure reading up to 129 considered "elevated".

"The prevalence of high blood pressure is expected to triple among men under age 45, and double among women under 45", according to the report.

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.

The AHA hopes that the new guidelines won't mean more people will use medication, so much as the hope more people will make the lifestyle changes necessary to address hypertension.

"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.

The category of prehypertension, referring to those with systolic pressure of 120-139, no longer exists.

Recognizing that many people will need two or more types of medications to control their blood pressure, and that people may take their pills more consistently if multiple medications are combined into a single pill.