New US standard redefines high blood pressure

The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology just lowered the threshold for high blood pressure to 130/80 millimeters of mercury, and now 46% of Americans - up from 32% - fall in the danger zone.

With the new guidelines, that patient will be "read the riot act" about exercise and healthy eating but the goal will be for them to bring their blood pressure down with those lifestyle changes before prescribing medications, Gandhi said.

Cardiologist Dr. Tara Narula joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss the impact of the new guidelines. "And yet it carries with it a really high risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney damage, so one of the most important things that I can do as the doctor is to treat high blood pressure and to prevent those things in my patients". A reading of less than 120/80 mm HG is defined as the new normal.

Patients with blood pressure of 130/80 would now be diagnosed with hypertension or abnormally high blood pressure.

The normal limit for blood pressure is considered 120 for systolic, or how much pressure the blood places on the artery walls when the heart beats, and 80 for diastolic, which is measured between beats.

Rather than 1 in 3 US adults having high blood pressure with the previous definition, the new guidelines will result in almost half of the USA adult population having the condition. Anything above is now considered "elevated" or "Stage 1" or "Stage 2".

Gandhi described the new guidelines as "sound" and "a long time coming".

High blood pressure is caused when the force of blood pushing against vessel walls is too high.

The proper technique must be used to measure blood pressure, and levels "should be based on an average of two to three readings on at least two different occasions", according to the new guidelines. The association recommends that those with stage 1 hypertension will only be prescribed medication if they have a heart attack or stroke.

The AHA hopes that the new guidelines won't mean more people will use medication, so much as the hope more people will make the lifestyle changes necessary to address hypertension.

  • Santos West