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New Heart Association Guidelines Set Lower Threshold for High Blood Pressure

New guidelines would classify nearly half of all Americans with hypertension

INDIANAPOLIS - You may have high blood pressure today, even if your numbers are the same as they were yesterday.

The American Heart Association has slashed its cutoff for high blood pressure by 10 top and bottom, from 140-over-90 to 130-over-80. That figure was previously considered borderline. Lowering the standard means an additional one in seven Americans would be classified as having high blood pressure, bringing the total to just under halrf.

The association says a study last year found addressing blood pressure early reduced future heart problems by 25%.

Indianapolis Franciscan Health hypertension specialist Atul Chugh cautions the benefits might be smaller in the real world, because patients may not be as diligent about taking blood pressure medication. Most of those meds have side effects, including fatigue, kidney issues, and, for men, erectile dysfunction. Chugh says the benefits are worth the tradeoff.

And Chugh says doctors would prescribe medication for patients with high cardiovascular risk scores, which incorporate other factors. For patients whose risk scores are lower, the focus would be on getting patients to exercise more, lose weight, and eat healthier food.

Chugh says it typically takes three-to-five years for new guidelines to filter down to doctors.

(Photo: Only5/Thinkstock)

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