The powers that be in the world of health have changed the standards on high blood pressure, and the upshot is that a significantly larger number of Americans are now at risk. As of now, anyone with a reading of 130 over 80 is considered to have high blood pressure, down from 140 over over 90, reports the Washington Post. Under the old standard, 32% of Americans had high blood pressure. Now, 46% of the nation qualifies. The good news is that only a relative handful of the new people in the category would need medication—the AP estimates that number is only 2% of them. Instead, health authorities want to flag the problem earlier for people and get them to make lifestyle changes in terms of diet, exercise, booze, smoking, etc.
“We're recognizing that blood pressures that we in the past thought were normal or so-called pre-hypertensive actually placed the patient at significant risk for heart disease and death and disability,” says Robert Carey, co-chair of the panel that issued the new guidelines. “The risk hasn't changed. What's changed is our recognition of the risk.” Under the new standards, normal remains at 120 over 80 and those at 120-29 over 80-89 are considered "elevated." Then come the two rankings of those considered to have high blood pressure: Stage 1, for those at 130-139 over 80-89, and Stage 2 for those at minimums of 140 over 90. Groups involved with the changes include the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. (Read more high blood pressure stories.)