The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology released a new set of guidelines on November 13 for what the “new normal” is in blood pressure readings.
According to the new standards, which have lowered the threshold for treating blood pressure, there are 30 million more Americans now with high blood pressure, Newsweek reports.
People who have a reading of 130/80 are now considered to have high blood pressure – a dramatic drop from the previous standard of 140/90. The top number is called the systolic pressure, which describes the pressure on blood vessels when the heart beats. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure, the pressure when the heart is in between beats, New York Daily News reports.
This means that the next time Americans sit in the doctor’s chair to get their blood pressure read, they might be told they now have hypertension.
It is expected that the number of men under 45 years old who will have high blood pressure is expected to triple, and the number of hypertensive women under the age of 45 will double.
The changes followed an important study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2015, called SPRINT. The study stated that lowering blood pressure standards from 140/90 to 130/80 could prevent more cardiovascular diseases.
The last time there were any diagnostic revisions on hypertension standards was in 2003. Experts cite growing evidence that blood pressure lower than was considered normal cuts a person’s chances of suffering a heart attack and stroke, as well as overall mortality risks.
High blood pressure is known as the silent killer; heart disease has been a leading cause of death worldwide for the past 80 years. It is one of the primary risk factors, second to smoking, that is a preventable cause of strokes and heart attacks.
With the sudden increase in hypertensive Americans, it is estimated that only 4.2 million of the additional 30 million or so will need to be under medications. The rest should be able to manage their blood pressures by making some lifestyle changes.