Doctor weighs in on change of blood pressure guidelines

BUFFALO, N.Y.–The American Heart Association changed the definition of high blood pressure for the first time in 14 years this week. It means half of adults in the U.S. now have high blood pressure.

Under the new guidelines, high blood pressure is now defined as readings of 130 over 80. That’s compared to 140 over 90 in the past.

“That means that a significant number of individuals previously labeled as normal-tensive or pre-hypertensive would come in the category of hypertensive, and they would need to start paying attention to their number a lot more closely,” Dr. Vijay Iyer, medical director of cardiology for Kaleida Health and president of the local chapter of the American Heart Association said.

Dr. Iyer said the change comes after years of new research.

“The primary reason to change these guidelines is to really look at the impact of long-term health of individuals and the public health spectrum as a whole.”

The new guidelines also get rid of the pre-hypertension category. One in three adults had high blood pressure in the U.S. under the old definition. Now 46% of the adult population will be classified with high blood pressure.

“I think the cornerstone of blood pressure control continues to be lifestyle modifications and that includes weight loss, regular exercise, reduction in salt consumption,” Dr. Iyer said.

High blood pressure raises the risk for heart disease, stroke and other issues. Dr. Iyer said the goal in changing the guidelines is to catch it early and prevent it from becoming more serious.

“It’s a huge problem. It’s under recognized and under treated. It’s a silent killer. Many people don’t even realize they have elevated blood pressures.”

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