Hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure, is considered the “silent killer.” It’s known as this because the condition can progress over time without showing any noticeable signs or symptoms. Recently, the guidelines for defining this serious condition were just revised for the first time in decades by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology (1,2).
According to the Center for Disease Control in 2016, roughly 75 million Americans are estimated to be living with hypertension, or dealing with high blood pressure. With these new guidelines, it’s expected that that number is quite the understatement (3).
Before the recent update, the definition of hypertension meant a blood pressure reading of 140/90 or above. With the most recent update however, the new guidelines determine that a reading of 130/80 is a more accurate indicator of high blood pressure.
Considering that the minimum review requirement to qualify as hypertensive has been reduced, it’s likely that millions of additional Americans now officially have high blood pressure and, even scarier, it’s also likely that many of them aren’t aware!
In fact, the American Heart Association estimates now that nearly 50% of the American population actually has high blood pressure. That’s quite a drastic increase compared to the original estimate of 75 million, or roughly 33% of the population (1) .
With new guidelines for the diagnosis of hypertension, it’s important to understand why the guidelines have changed, how it can affect your own health, and of course, how to actually deal with it and potentially eliminate the risk.
In this article, I’ll discuss what the new changes to hypertension guidelines mean for you and how you can begin to work towards management and hopefully, remission.
Why Hypertension Guidelines Have Been Updated
At first glance, this drastic difference of requirements for such a deadly disease is certainly reason for concern. However, it’s actually quite unlikely that the risks of high blood pressure have changed.
Rather, the purpose of changing guidelines was an approach to bring a greater awareness to these risks.
Having a diagnosis of hypertension, according to the outdated guidelines may not have been exactly commonplace, but still, over 75 million Americans were considered to have readings over 140/90. Additionally, this number did not include the many millions of people who were actually pre-hypertensive, or at risk of eventually developing the disease.
By updating these guidelines, it brings a wider awareness of the disease itself, in addition to the potential risks it carries. By doing so, millions of Americans may be able to fix the issue in pre-hypertension stages, rather than after full-blown hypertension has already occurred.
Think of this recent change as a way to shift awareness and catch the rise before it becomes an actual problem.
The New Guidelines For High Blood Pressure
As mentioned, the guidelines for different stages of hypertension, including pre-disease stages have changed to now include a much larger population of individuals.
From The American Heart Association
Essentially, the minimum requirements for these stages have been shifted slightly to indicate that now, what was once considered to be pre-hypertensive (130/80) is now considered to be the tipping point of a high blood pressure diagnosis.
However, while being in the different stages of high blood pressure is not exactly the best position to be in, catching the disease in earlier stages is more advantageous for treatment.
In fact, the American Heart Association indicates that patients in stage 1 are likely to simply be prescribed lifestyle changes with a small chance of needing high blood pressure medication. By catching the disease early, it’s possible that medication won’t even be required (4).
Granted, to be clear, if you’re in pre-stages of actual stages of hypertension, it’s important to always listen to your doctor’s prescription, even if that means considering medication.
Why Is High Blood Pressure So Dangerous?
Since the population suffering from this disease is so large, many people downplay its effects or simply don’t realize that high blood pressure is more dangerous than they think.
High blood pressure has been associated with an increased risk of serious medical conditions such as heart failure, stroke and of course heart attack, which unsurprisingly are all associated with blood flow issues (5, 6, 7).
Unfortunately, high blood pressure has a very large possibility of damaging blood vessels, which can lead to blockages, such as what occurs during a heart attack and stroke.
What’s even scarier is that according to Paul Whelton, the lead author of the new blood pressure guidelines, Just reaching the new minimum requirement of 130/80 doubles your risk of experiencing these serious medical conditions! (8)
Considering the nature of the conditions that can manifest from high blood pressure, catching it early on and implementing a strategy to lower it is of the utmost importance for your health and for minimizing the risks of high blood pressure.
You’re Officially Hypertensive. Now What?
If you happen to be one of the millions of Americans newly diagnosed with high blood pressure, your first step is to avoid panicking while also beginning to formulate a plan.
Considering that the new guidelines are a bit lower than they once were, being diagnosed is not by any means a death sentence. In fact, if you find yourself in the first stage of hypertension (130/80 or more), you’re actually in a much better situation than you would have been, had you been diagnosed with high blood pressure before the change.
As mentioned earlier, being in stage 1 of hypertension is actually a stage that is quite easily manageable, potentially without even the use of high blood pressure medication.
At this point, the first step is to begin identifying lifestyle factors that may be playing a role in your risk of hypertension. The reason for this is because many of these same factors can be addressed easily and quickly, to immediately begin your route to reducing blood pressure.
Some of the best lifestyle factors to address include those such as physical activity, nutritional habits, the use of alcohol and tobacco, sodium intake and even your level of stress.
Fortunately, I’ve addressed many of these factors and how to successfully adjust them in my latest article touching on my Top 10 most effective ways to naturally reduce blood pressure. If you’re newly diagnosed, this may be a highly beneficial resource for starting you down the road to remission.
For more information on lifestyle change, you can also download my hypertension handbook, which I use for many of my personal clients. The handbook is my go-to Top 7 Workouts for Naturally Reducing Blood Pressure.
Blood Pressure Guidelines Revisited
Hypertension, otherwise known, as high blood pressure is a condition affecting millions of Americans, making it one of the most prevalent health conditions around.
Recently, the American Heart Association updated its minimum requirement for being considered hypertensive to now encompass millions of additional people.
While you may be diagnosed as hypertensive under the new guidelines, it’s no reason to panic. With a strong plan of action and identifying lifestyle factors to change, you’ll be on the fast track to remission.
- High Blood Pressure Guidelines. (n.d.). Retrieved December 26, 2017, from https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/High-Blood-Pressure-or-Hypertension_UCM_002020_SubHomePage.jsp
- Whelton, Paul K., et al. “2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA guideline for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and management of high blood pressure in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2017): 24430.
- High Blood Pressure. (2017, November 13). Retrieved December 26, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/index.htm
- Understanding Blood Pressure Readings. (n.d.). Retrieved December 26, 2017, from https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/KnowYourNumbers/Understanding-Blood-Pressure-Readings_UCM_301764_Article.jsp
- American Heart Association. (1988). Heart facts. The Association.
- Cruickshank, J. K., Beevers, D. G., Osbourne, V. L., Haynes, R. A., Corlett, J. C., & Selby, S. (1980). Heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and hypertension in West Indians, Asians, and whites in Birmingham, England. British medical journal, 281(6248), 1108.
- Strandgaard, S. (1996). Hypertension and stroke. Journal of Hypertension, 14, S23-S27.
- High blood pressure redefined for first time in 14 years: 130 is the new high. (n.d.). Retrieved December 26, 2017, from https://newsroom.heart.org/news/high-blood-pressure-redefined-for-first-time-in-14-years-130-is-the-new-high