New blood pressure guidelines mean more Americans have high blood pressure

New blood pressure guidelines mean more Americans have high blood pressure
New guidelines lower the threshold for high blood pressure. (Source: WBRC Video)

TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) - Under new guidelines for blood pressure, approximately 46 percent of American adults have high blood pressure. The doctor who lead the group that developed the new guidelines says the goal is to give individuals better control over their health, and help clinicians make better diagnoses.

Blood pressure categories under the new American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association guidelines:

Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg;Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80;Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89;Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg;Hypertensive crisis: Systolic over 180 and/or diastolic over 120, with patients needing prompt changes in medication if there are no other indications of problems, or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage.

Dr. Paul K. Whelton, who lead the group that developed the new guidelines, recently spoke to a group of medical professionals at DCH Regional Medical Center. Whelton wants people to know that in most cases, they can make a difference in their blood pressure.

"The underlying problem for high blood pressure in 90 percent of people is diet and physical activity," Whelton said. "Our diet is not what it should be, and most of us don't exercise enough. That's really a fundamental problem, and it's the fundamental approach to managing the problem."

Whelton says doctors and patients should work together to determine the best approach in each individual case.

"It's always going to involve trying to improve our diet and increase our physical activity, and in many instances it will also involve starting with drugs, either a single drug or combination of drugs. There, a clinician is the one who can help the patient make the decision."

Whelton was in Tuscaloosa to give the David and Natica Bahar Memorial Lecture for The University of Alabama's College of Community Health Sciences.

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