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New guidelines now suggest nearly half of all Americans have high blood pressure

The change is small, but the results are drastic. Nearly 30 million Americans who didn't have high blood pressure yesterday are now considered to have it today, according to new blood pressure guidelines released by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

Dr. Andre Paixao, interventional cardiologist at Arkansas Heart Hospital, said the biggest change to the national blood pressure guidelines has to do with the reclassification of patients previously diagnosed with pre-hypertension. That's people with a blood pressure rate above 130/80 but lower than 140/80. What used to be pre-hypertension is now considered to be stage 1 hypertension.

According to Dr. Paixao, the reasoning behind the change is the hope that lowering the threshold for high blood pressure will help warn more people earlier that they're at risk for developing major health problems.

"That's the result of a large study sponsored by the National Institute of Health called SPRINT, that showed by adopting a more aggressive threshold you end up preventing strokes, heart attacks and reducing mortality - saving lives," said Paixao.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 1,000 people die every day across the United States with high blood pressure named as a primary or contributing factor.

"Any blood vessel can develop disease and can affect the brain, can affect your legs and can affect your heart," said Paixao, listing off other ailments like kidney disease. "These are the main things that we're trying to prevent when we're treating someone's blood pressure."

While the new guidelines will likely increase the number of Americans and Arkansans being put on blood pressure medication, Paixao said the new guidelines actually put a greater emphasis on preaching healthy lifestyle before resulting to pills.

"Exercising more, having a healthier diet and without medications lowering their blood pressure and improving their overall health," said Paixao.

A healthy blood pressure is now considered to be 120/80. Those who are now considered to have high blood pressure will likely be prescribed medication to help manage their blood pressure only if there's existing disease like heart attack or stroke, or if a patients risk for developing one of those diseases is greater than 10 percent over the next several years.


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