‘Silent killer’: New guidelines show 46% of US adults have high blood pressure

‘Silent killer’: New guidelines show 46% of US adults have high blood pressure
Doctors and experts from the American Heart Association, along with nine other groups, have bad news for 30 million Americans: they now have high blood pressure. This will bring the total number of US adults living with high blood pressure to 103 million.

The updated information indicates that high blood pressure (hypertension) will now affect nearly half of US adults, after the standards to diagnose the condition have been lowered from a threshold reading of 140 over 90 to 130 over 80. The new guidelines were announced on Monday at an American Heart Association conference in Anaheim, California.

Blood pressure is measured by the systolic pressure (the top number), and the diastolic pressure (the bottom number). The revised rules state that a reading of 130 over 80 through 139 over 89 will be considered stage one hypertension, and a reading of 140 over 90 or above will be considered stage two.

The updated guidelines indicate that 46 percent of US adults will be considered to be living with hypertension, compared to 32 percent under the old standard.

Hypertension occurs in humans when "the force of the blood flowing through your blood vessels, is consistently too high," according to the AHA. The symptoms for high blood pressure will not be immediately obvious, which is why it is often called “the silent killer.”

“We want to be straight with people – if you already have a doubling of risk, you need to know about it,” said Paul Whelton, professor of global public health at Tulane University, according to USA Today. “It doesn’t mean you need medication, but it’s a yellow light that you need to be lowering your blood pressure."

David Goff, director of cardiovascular sciences at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, said the new standards are supported by solid science and “have the potential of improving the health of millions,” USA Today reported.

The updated guidelines recommend lifestyle changes, and eating healthy, among other suggestions, as good ways to lower blood pressure.

As the revised information reaches the American public, only about half the of the people in the US living with hypertension under the previous guidelines have their condition under control.

“I don’t underestimate the challenge of what we need to do,” Whelton said.

A quarter of all deaths in the US every year ‒ around 610,000 people ‒ is due to heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.