Blood pressure guidelines tougher, more people to be diagnosed

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The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology lowered the threshold for high blood pressure on Monday.

The new guidelines define high blood pressure, or hypertension, as 130/80 and higher which is down from the old definition of 140/90 and higher.

The new standard means almost half (46 per cent) of the U.S. population will be defined as having high blood pressure.

"We know that high blood pressure is one of the major causes of heart attack and strokes", said Dr. David Shearer, Family Medicine Physician, SSM Health. Normal blood pressure is considered to be 120 over 80.

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

"The prevalence of hypertension among USA adults is substantially higher when the definition in the present guideline is used versus the [older] definition (46% versus 32%)", the authors write.

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Jarvis says before the new guidelines, about a third of Mainers had hypertension, or high blood pressure.

"If you take it right as the patient walks in, it's usually higher, because he has sort of a fight or flight response so he has 10 points more but then they relax and the pressure is normal", Dr. Fabregas said. It's also known as a "silent killer" because often there are no symptoms.

But the drugs have side effects and the new guidelines emphasize lifestyle changes including weight loss, diet and exercise as the first tool for combating hypertension.

The American Heart Association says falling into this category won't always call for medication, but it's rather a yellow light to lowering blood pressure. The association recommends that those with stage 1 hypertension will only be prescribed medication if they have a heart attack or stroke.

The proper technique must be used to measure blood pressure, and levels "should be based on an average of two to three readings on at least two different occasions", according to the new guidelines.

But patients in the 120 systolic blood pressure group had a higher rate of kidney injury or failure, as well as fainting.