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Heart Association Raises Its Blood Pressure Guideline

46 percent of U.S. adults are now considered to have hypertension

Blood Pressure Standard

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

The AHA's new guideline is designed to encourage people to take earlier steps to control their blood pressure.

Under a newly released scientific guideline, nearly half of American adults could be considered at risk of major health problems because of high blood pressure, the American Heart Association reported on Monday.

Blood pressure readings of 130 as the top number or 80 as the bottom number now are considered to be high. High readings had been defined as 140/90.

Applying the new standard, 46 percent of American adults have high blood pressure, far more than the 32 percent under the previous definition. A reading of less than 120/80 still will be considered normal, but levels at or above that will be classified as “elevated.”

The AHA's new guideline is designed to encourage people to take earlier steps to control their blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death.

“Yes, we will label more people hypertensive and give more medication, but we will save lives and money by preventing more strokes, cardiovascular events and kidney failure,” said Kenneth Jamerson, professor of internal medicine and a hypertension specialist at the University of Michigan Health System. He is among 21 experts on the guideline-writing committee, the AHA said.

“If you are going to put money into the health care system,” Jamerson said, “it’s to everyone’s advantage if we treat and prevent on this side of it, in early treatment.”

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