You may have heard "Know your numbers" when it comes to heart disease. But now there's a new number to know.
This week, the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology and nine other health professional organizations announced new guidelines for treating high blood pressure. Hypertension is defined by a having blood pressure of 130/80 instead of 140/90, the first change in more than a decade.
Normal blood pressure has a systolic number of 120; anything higher than 130 is now considered hypertensive.
The new guidelines eliminate what was called the "prehypertensive" stage.
High Blood Pressure: What Are My Numbers?
Blood pressure categories in the new guidelines, according to the American Heart Association, are:
- Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg;
- Elevated: Top number (systolic) between 120-129 and bottom number (diastolic) less than 80;
- Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 or 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.
"These new guidelines are a major shift from past benchmarks," said Dr. Atul Chugh, a Franciscan Health cardiologist with Franciscan Physician Network Indiana Heart Physicians in Indianapolis. "The big focus is on those who are now rated at 130/80, compared with the previous of 140/90."
What the Blood Pressure Guidelines Mean for You
- With updated definition of high blood pressure, you may be diagnosed with having stage 1 hypertension if your systolic number is over 130. The new guidelines will increase the number of U.S. adults with high blood pressure from roughly 1 in 3 to nearly half (46 percent).
- However, there will only be a small increase in the number of U.S. adults who will require antihypertensive medication, according to the American Heart Association. "This doesn't necessarily mean those at risk of hypertension need medications, however, it is vital they make lifestyle changes to reduce their level of risk," Chugh said.
- Based on their personal risk factors, people with Stage I hypertension may be prescribed medication. These include people who have had a heart attack or stroke, are at high risk of heart attack or stroke based on age, or have diabetes mellitus and chronic kidney disease.
- Some persons may need two or more types of medications to control their blood pressure.
- Your socioeconomic status and psychosocial stress, which are risk factors for high blood pressure, should be considered in your plan of care.
These guidelines, based on results of more than 900 published studies, are designed to help people address the potentially deadly condition much earlier. Hypertension can lead to heart disease, including hardening of the arteries. High blood pressure accounts for the second largest number of preventable heart disease and stroke deaths, second only to smoking. It's known as the "silent killer" because often there are no symptoms, despite its role in significantly increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke.
Learn about the AHA's process for developing new guidelines.