New blood pressure guidelines put half of U.S. adults in unhealthy range


DOUBLE CHECK New blood pressure guidelines redefine what constitutes high blood pressure. A patient’s levels should be based on the average of two or three readings taken on at least two different occasions, the authors say.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Nearly half of U.S. adults now have high blood pressure, thanks to a new definition of what constitutes high: 130/80 is the new 140/90. That means that 103 million people — about 14 percent more than under the old definition — need to make diet and exercise changes and, in some cases, take medication to lower their risk of heart attack or stroke.

These new blood pressure guidelines, the first major update since 2003, were announced November 13 at the American Heart Association’s annual scientific sessions and published in Hypertension and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“It’s very clear that lower is better,” said Paul Whelton of Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, lead author of the guidelines, at a news conference. Previous studies have linked low blood pressure with low risk of cardiovascular disease (SN: 10/17/15, p. 6). The updated recommendations “will improve the cardiovascular health of our adult community in the United States,” Whelton said.

A blood pressure reading measures the systolic pressure, or how much force the blood places on the walls of the arteries when the heart beats, and the diastolic pressure, the same force but when the heart rests between beats.

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P.K. Whelton et al/Hypertension 2017

Previously, systolic pressures from 120 to 139 millimeters of mercury…

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