Nearly half of American adults now have unhealthy blood pressure levels. And the spike is, for once, not due to our fast food obsession. For the first time in more than a decade, the American Heart Association has released updated guidelines on what constitutes healthy blood pressure. “High blood pressure” will henceforth be defined as anything greater than 130/80. Before AHA moved the goalposts the standard cutoff was 140/90, which included roughly one third of U.S. adults.
High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer”, and with good reason. On one hand, people with hypertension are at double the risk of suffering from heart attacks and strokes. And yet, high blood pressure frequently affects people who appear healthy. Indeed, experts suspect that high blood pressure is exceedingly common, not just because of our poor diets and lack of exercise, but because it’s difficult to convince people to take medicine for a condition that doesn’t make them feel sick.
The updates are in part due to a 2015 study that found that patients who lowered their systolic blood pressures to 120 were nearly 30 percent less likely to die than patients who lowered their systolic blood pressures to 140. The study implied that doctors who were aiming for anything below 140 weren’t being aggressive enough, and that the AHA’s guidelines were far too lenient.
Here are the new guidelines, as reported by Live Science:
- Normal: Less than 120 mm Hg for systolic and 80 mm Hg for diastolic.
- Elevated: Between 120-129 for systolic, and less than 80 for diastolic.
- Stage 1 hypertension: Between 130-139 for systolic or between 80-89 for diastolic.
- Stage 2 hypertension: At least 140 for systolic or at least 90 mm Hg for diastolic.